Grocery Wars: It's Not Just About Selling Food Anymore

With dozens of options, what are retailers doing to stand out?

NBC Universal, Inc.

When it comes to grocery stores, we all have our favorite. But just how loyal are you? And what might tempt you to switch stores? As our options for grocery shopping increase, supermarkets are realizing they have to get creative to win our business.

Many customers say price is a driving force when determining where to shop.

“Price is still important, and we never want to discount price as a major factor in a lot of people’s minds, but it’s price plus today,” said Bill Bishop, a retail food industry advisor and co-founder of Brick Meets Click. The “plus” Bishop mentioned includes options such as full-service bars like the one in the new Wegmans at Tysons.

“So really what this is designed to do is allow you to go out to the cafe, buy restaurant foods, bring it in here and just relax with family or friends,” said Kevin Russell, store manager at Wegmans Tysons.

Before the pandemic, many grocery stores offered cooking classes. Shoppers could sip on beer or wine while shopping at some Giant Food and Whole Foods locations. And others offered a wider range of prepared foods at hot and cold salad bars. Experts are confident that these things will return to normal as soon as the pandemic is over.

“So they want to make it so you’re there for a long time and the longer you stay the more you’re likely to buy more things,” said Patrick Fisher, a retail pricing consultant and founder of the  Busted Shopping Cart.

At Wegmans, Russell said one thing that sets them apart hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic at all. “It starts with our people it really does. We are about people to the core and there’s a saying, ‘We are in the people business; we just happen to sell food.'”

With all these bells and whistles now being offered at various supermarkets, many customers wonder whether they add to the price of their overall basket. Wegmans says it strives to keep shopping affordable so its shoppers don’t have to worry about clipping coupons. 

You don’t have to sacrifice all the extras to get a better price. Join a store’s loyalty program to get notified about deals that suit your buying habits.

While people may like the added touches like apps to skip the check-out lines, the fancier food offerings or the cocktails, unless grocery stores pair them with lower prices, customers certainly have enough options to find one that will.

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