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    As E-commerce Comes of Age, So Too Will Physical Stores

    Pondering the future of grocery store floorplans

    By Meg Major, EnsembleIQ

    The transforming platter of the retail food industry, coupled with consumers’ evolving tastes about where, when and how they shop, is powering unprecedented upheaval for a business that never sleeps. And though the reigning topic du jour – e-commerce – is the primary paddle stirring the murky pot of late (more on that momentarily), a plethora of vats brewing on the front burners of the supermarket stove is every bit as compelling, if not more so.

    To be sure, a series of major developments erupting in the grocery world in recent weeks – ranging from the unexpected to the inevitable, and everything in between – has kept our editorial team on its toes. Fortunately, however, we’re ever mindful that the food industry is a fascinating and many-splintered thing, brimming with intriguing stories, including those depicting the genuinely progressive strides many grocers are taking to adapt and reimagine their physical presence in new and creative ways.

    To that point, look no further than our 2015 Store Design Contest champs, which are individually profiled in our August issue. With a hearty shout-out to the first-ever trio of winners from the same metro market that’s clearly a hotbed of retail activity – Baton Rouge, La. – we're proud to tip our hats to the overall strong showing of contenders in our sixth store design showdown. In a perfect world, I’d have the chance to personally visit each and every one, walk the aisles, sample the wares, behold the bounty and, most importantly, shake the hands of the folks who made it possible. But the next best thing is learning how these dynamic labors of love came to be, and we look forward to seeing what comes next from these talented retail and design partners.

    Meanwhile, when considering the rapidly changing retail landscape and companion opportunities therein regarding online grocery offshoots, it stands to reason that supermarket floorplans will be vastly different in a few years from what we see today.

    To that end, Willard Bishop’s recently released “2015 eCommerce SuperStudy” sheds some much-needed light on the subject from both the retailer and supplier sides. According to Paul Weitzel, managing partner at Willard Bishop, online center store food and nonfood categories are doing “very well.”

    However, Weitzel says that “the different fulfillment models cause category performance to vary significantly. The online trip averages 44 units per order 90 percent of the time, when the basket is more than 50 units. Online orders are large and broad, and consumers are shoppingng the entire store, which is very different than traditional in-store baskets, which are much smaller and more specific.” With fewer cherry pickers online, “core customers shopping for convenience are both profitable and very important.”

    Interestingly, “some categories are disproportionately more important online,” a good example being paper products, which Weitzel says “are twice as important online than in-store. This is a category that many grocers gave away to mass and club, and e-commerce is showing that they can win back some of this business.”

    So what categories in particular are trending stronger than others?

    By Meg Major, EnsembleIQ
    • About Meg Major Veteran supermarket industry journalist Meg Major brings a wealth of experience to her role as Chief Content Editor of Progressive Grocer. In addition to her editorial duties, Major also spearheads the retail food industry’s premier women’s leadership recognition platform, Top Women in Grocery. Follow her on Twitter at @Meg_Major, connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/megmajor, or email her at [email protected]

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