Supermarket News launched its power rankings in 2003 with a bit of trepidation. We were concerned about how “The Power 50” would be perceived in an industry whose top executives typically don’t have a reputation for flaunting their influence.
The reception was excellent, however, and now it’s a highly anticipated roster each year.
Which brings me to the 10th anniversary edition (see "Enduring Influence") and my related column (which you’re reading). I wanted to mark the anniversary by imagining how the list might look in the future, say by 2020. So I tapped three top consultants who provided excellent insights, which I’ve selectively pulled from. Here’s a first look at what will shape the roster in 2020:
- Companies to Watch: Neil Stern, senior partner, McMillan Doolittle, said Amazon (not yet on our list) and the Internet will have “a giant impact.” Ethnic grocers, from Hispanic to Asian chains, will gain more influence, “whether it be Sedando’s, Northgate Market, H Mart, or someone we haven’t even heard of,” he observed. Meanwhile, global operators will build influence here, as will smaller fresh foods markets. He said Sprouts Farmers Market “looks like a consolidator today.”
- Leadership Traits: Jim Hertel, managing partner, Willard Bishop, said leaders of the future will need “extraordinary analytic skills combined with the ability to ‘see’ shopper behavior in the numbers” to improve shopping experiences. More of these leaders will have CPG marketing experience, which will be a great background for dealing effectively with many retail challenges, he added.
- Changing Assumptions: Leon Nicholas, senior vice president, Kantar Retail, said a big challenge will be dealing with change in this fundamental assumption: that shoppers will always come to big stores. “Stores will be getting smaller,” he said, “and increasingly, shoppers will want products to come to them.” That means more of everything from home delivery to more convenient store or item-pickup locations, “and it turns the focus back to the shopper, which will be a bigger story over the next decade.”
Many other new elements will shape the industry’s future, but one factor won’t change. Top leaders will need a real vision of where things are headed nationally and locally, and how to align their organizations with those dynamics.
In the meantime, save this column, and let’s check back with each other in eight years.