By Jim Dudlicek
Stay tuned as we continue to write the grocery guidebook for what will surely be a dynamic 2013.
Writing this as the nation teetered on the edge of the fiscal cliff, I find it difficult to fathom that most folks apparently expect 2013 to be a better year than the last one, which — if true — bodes well for the retail community.
According to an Ipsos poll for Reuters, eight in 10 globally say they're optimistic that 2013 will be a better year than 2012. More than half (55 percent) of respondents say that what they most want to do in the new year is "improve my financial situation." That optimism is a full eight points higher than it was at this time last year, Ipsos reports, as we prepared to leave 2011 behind.
How this will impact the retail grocery industry is obviously open to interpretation — and very subject to change.
On its face, it would suggest consumers feel comfortable about the direction of the economy and should be expected to spend as much, if not more, than they have been on goods and services, including grocery staples. Those who find success in improving their financial situations would undoubtedly have more to spend on higher-end goods, including better-quality meats, fresh food, the occasional gourmet indulgence and value-added products.
It might also mean consumers will be in a position to dine out more often, so grocers should be proactive in retaining and boosting those sales they gained when restaurant patronage dropped. Our latest three-part Deli Insights series, starting in this issue, will explore how grocery retailers have enhanced their deli/prepared food offerings and services to capture business that would typically go to other channels. In addition, Dierbergs — our first Store of the Month for 2013 — continues to launch initiatives in the arena of food education and wellness, further cementing the role of the grocer as a teacher rather than just a merchant.
Of course, yet another way to improve one's financial situation is to cut back on certain expenses to enhance solvency. That just might be the case if the president and Congress were unable to reach an agreement by the end of 2012 that would have kept us from flying off the fiscal cliff. If folks are saddled with higher taxes across the board during a post-drought year when food prices are expected to jump, grocers will surely feel the impact on their bottom lines.
If that comes to pass, it will be even more important for grocers to become their shoppers' best friends by offering solutions for responsibly feeding their families on continually stretched dollars. If tax hikes deliver a roundhouse kick to our sluggish recovery, price and value will rule the day.
As usual, PG will be monitoring and analyzing market conditions and their impact on the grocery industry. In addition to our signature reports such as operations reviews and shopper insights studies, this year we'll be launching a series of reports that looks at the unique environments faced by grocery operations in the various regions of the country.
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