Food retailers, from supermarkets to tiny convenience stores, are changing as consumer tastes change and as the pandemic brings about changes in food shopping behavior and at-home eating. Where will it all end?
This piece I read recently looks at two extremes evolving in today’s food retail space — stores with virtually no customer-facing employees and markets that look more like restaurants with lots of employees interacting, and selling, to customers.
No surprise that the store with few employees is from Amazon which is always trying to sell everything faster. Eliminating things like store checkout lines can do that in a supermarket. So Amazon has begun opening stores called Amazon Fresh where people check themselves out as they shop.
At the other end of the spectrum is Dom’s Kitchen in Chicago, started by former executives for the Mariano’s chain (and the defunct Dominick’s chain before that) and embodying a lot of concepts first tried by East Coast-favorite Wegman’s years ago. Dom’s is full of counters where you can buy cooked food to take home and eat. It has some packaged grocery items too, but they definitely play second fiddle to the take-out food.
I checked out Dom’s and enjoyed the experience although to my Baby Boomer sensibilities, everything seemed expensive. But I compare prices to buying ingredients and cooking myself. For younger shoppers who are more likely to compare prices to restaurant food, the prices likely seem reasonable.
An Amazon Fresh is opening soon in a nearby suburb. As soon as it’s open, I’ll check that out too.
The food retailing landscape is likely to include more stores trying each of these extremes while the old mainline stores, like Albertson’s and Kroger, continue to think being big will save them and so look to gobble up regional chains.