People have been speaking about the demise of the supermarket, or the evolution of the supermarket for seemingly years now. “The current model is outdated” “big changes are needed to keep up with consumer trends” the likelihood is you’ve heard something along those lines in the previous 24 months or so.
Even us at Harrison have waxed lyrical about the rise of the convenience store and how the supermarket would have to come to terms with the change in consumers needs. Now this article is not to say that any of those previous statements were incorrect, rather that drastic change has seemed to always be on the horizon rather than in full swing, as many predicted.
If I pop down to my local, Yorkshire based supermarket the experience is still largely the same as when I was being dragged round as a wee toddler, only with 50% less tantrums. Ok there have been improvements across the board, with greater choice for customers, more engaging displays and significant efforts to appease customers social concerns. However, the core experience remains the same. Aisle after aisle, up and down. The average person could probably map out a supermarket to a fair degree of accuracy before even stepping foot into it. So why now in 2018 would things be any different, what makes swathes of predictions for a retail revolution seem more likely now than ever before?
It’s no secret that retail as a whole is in a state of change. Just look at the headlines this year and you will see that operating in the same old traditional way is a dangerous game. But despite this, one sector of the retail market that has continued to deliver growth has been the grocery sector, which to some extent has probably influenced the lack of development in the supermarket’s core offering. However, the major players have been making some interesting moves of late, that suggests that the horizon may be about to come into view.
The merger of the UK’s largest supermarket and its largest supplier, the planned merger of the 2nd and 3rd biggest supermarkets to create a true retail giant. Takeovers and land purchases, new unexpected partnerships, and all within the previous 12 months. For an industry where change has been fairly reluctant and relatively steady, there have certainly been some big disruptions to the status quo in the past year. Could the supermarket as we know it be about to change forever? And could these actions be laying the foundation for that change?
Sainsbury's recently announced that they are rolling out their partnership with Patisserie Valerie to more stores after a positive trial. This joins the partnerships they currently have in place with the likes of Ben & Jerry, Crussh, Zizzi and Carte D’or, not to mention their acquisition of Argos’ parent company (Home Retail Group). Tesco have made similar moves, most notably with clothes store NEXT. These are not just partnerships where the supermarkets are promising the best shelf space, these are dedicated stalls/space within the store. So what relevance does that hold you ask?
It is this writer’s prediction (yes, another one of those) that the supermarket aisle as we know it is coming to the end of its lifespan. The partnerships that supermarkets are creating, like the ones above, suggest that there will be a greater emphasis on specific brands, rather than unlimited choice. The methodical repetition of aisle after aisle will be replaced with a living, breathing SUPER market, mixing local brands with international institutions. The abandoning of the structured aisle approach will give new freedoms to shopfitters, whilst at the same time place increased importance on their creations. The ideology of creating a customer experience will reign supreme, convenience stores will take on the traditional role of the supermarket, where customers go for essentials, choice and of course convenience, the supermarket shop will become a much more experiential event. With so much emphasis on creating an engrossing shopping experience, it will be up to suppliers like Harrison to provide the necessary components that will help to drive those interactions through engrossing displays and point of sale.