As is always the case, year's end is upon us before we quite got used to the idea that the year was fully under way.
And, as is always the case, the year now ending has had its share of notable and surprising industry events and trends. Those events and trends are profiled throughout the pages of this special year-end issue of Supermarket News. So with that in mind, let's take a quick look at the industry's march of events of 1994 as outlined in this issue by editors of the five sections of SN. · The theme of the year's retail/financial news, sketched in a series of news articles starting on Page 1, is that strategy was at the base of many events.
The section's news of the year centered on a host of mergers and acquisitions, re-engineering efforts and format developments -- many of which had underlying strategic implications.
Examples include the acquisition of wholesaler Scrivner by Fleming Cos., a company already deep into a re-engineering process. That acquisition gave Fleming the additional chore of folding Scrivner into its system, a process likely to proceed for several more months. Meanwhile, Safeway continued down the road of cost reduction and Kroger Co. made gains on a number of fronts, including efficiency and category management.
Among the chains that tinkered with formats were American Stores Co., Smith's Food & Drug Centers and A&P.
· In the Productivity section, starting on Page 21, much of the year's news centered on the process of seeking productivity gains. Some of the events referenced in the section are the rollout of Efficient Consumer Response pilots during the year, developments in coupon clearing and the beefing up of frequent-shopper initiatives. · In the Fresh Foods section, the news summary starting on Page 25 trains a big spotlight on food-safety issues. The year now ending was the worst when it comes to problems with E. coli bacteria -- very real problems that occasioned a blitz of negative publicity about the safety of food. In reaction to the problem, an in-store product-testing program was inaugurated by the government. Testing was opposed by way of a lawsuit sponsored by several industry trade associations, a lawsuit that hasn't found success in court. Regardless of how lame objectives of the testing program might have been, the legal action sparked another round of negative publicity.
There was also a little news in 1994 concerning the Fresh Foods section itself: In keeping with the importance the industry attaches to fresh, the section was moved forward in the publication to become its lead product section.
· Much of the news in the Center Store section, as outlined in an article starting on Page 41, centers on product categories. Many category developments were driven by events such as the toll weather in Brazil took on coffee prices, General Mills campaign to slow sticker shock in cold cereal and the continuous punches absorbed by the tobacco industry.
The debate about whether private label was closing on branded products was another important underlying theme of the year.
· Finally, in the Home & Health section, the saga of growth of supermarket video starts on Page 57. The year saw staggering growth in the category, as was pointed out by SN research that showed that rental and sell-through sales volume reached an estimated value of $2.6 billion, up nearly 19% for the year. Other big news included Procter & Gamble's introduction of Aleve and a major lawsuit concerning mail-order prescriptions.
So, as always, the lineup of stories in this issue shows that we've just come through quite an eventful time.
What's next? It's hazardous duty to predict what's ahead for the mid-decade year of 1995, but it's quite safe to predict that whatever happens, SN editors will do their best to tell you about it all.