As 2015 unfolds, the eyes of supermarket owners and operators are firmly focused on economic trends. So far, the direction appears favorable, with employment, sales and consumer confidence displaying slow but steady improvement.
From my perspective, independent grocers are ideally positioned to take full advantage of this upward momentum. I like to call this competitive edge the “power of independence.” Here’s what I mean:
• Independent grocers are by their very nature plugged into the communities they serve. This is a relationship that dates back generations for many family-owned businesses. They have a deeply ingrained understanding of their customers’ needs and economic situation, which I believe translates into extraordinarily effective marketing and advertising outreach, among other benefits.
• For many years, independents have locally purchased produce and other perishables, and now, with “local” a quality much in demand, family owned operators are already benefitting by promoting their authentic local roots.
• Independents have long relied on friends and neighbors not just as customers, but also as a source of employment. This familiarity also leverages associates’ volunteer activities, which further solidifies the bonds of community.
• Innovation is alive and well in the independent sector, often spurred by owners who have an entrepreneurial mindset. Look across the independent landscape and you will find numerous examples of technological systems driving the business, especially in customer service, store design, and mobile applications.
• Independents have long enjoyed strong partnerships with their business vendors. As CPG manufacturers and brand merchandisers seek to enlarge their market penetration, independents serve as a gateway to reach new target audiences in markets that had been overlooked or underserved.
This isn't to say that only independents have these qualities. What it does say is that independents are taking full advantage of their natural strengths as the economy improves.
What other factors will differentiate retailers in 2015?