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Independents on trend for 2016

Like almost everything else these days, grocery stores are in the midst of rapid change. While the traditional grocery store is still the center of the food shopping experience for most American consumers, it is by no means the only source for food. Consumers from Denver and Knoxville to Hartford and Ames are seeking new food experiences, particularly those associated with fresh, convenience and customization.

These trends are not new, but they’ve accelerated over the past few years and show no signs of dwindling as 2016 approaches. The entire food industry is looking to adapt to these changing tastes, and as for the independent supermarket, there’s hardly anything traditional going on these days.

New technologies are making online shopping more convenient, while in-store tech enhancements enable customers to shop more quickly, taking full advantage of what they want, when they want it. Product selection is becoming more diverse and exciting, while perimeter departments are capitalizing upon consumer demand for authentic and fresh items. The smaller ex-urban and suburban markets served by independent grocers also are experiencing growing diversity. Given independent grocers’ advantage of deep community roots, I believe they are ideally positioned to meet the needs of new ethnic and cultural households.

Retailers large and small also are investigating home delivery, in part to counter the competitive presence of giant general merchandise retailers who see food and perishables as their next big market. Many independents have long experience with traditional home delivery so as consumers grow ever more tech-savvy, family-owned retailers are ideally positioned to further develop and enhance this service.

In sum, the changes we’ve all seen developing in our industry over the past several years will continue in 2016 and, most probably, intensify. But independent supermarket operators, nimble in their nature, are well prepared for this hectic, but also, exhilarating ride.

How is your store responding to these trends?

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