This is the final in a series of columns that report on the 30th annual The Lempert Report Trend Forecast; its focus is on the most important issues the retail and food industries face. Today, it’s all about some of the eminent changes that are about to happen at retail.
Our grocery retail crystal ball this year is more like a snow globe. The Kroger
Walmart announced shuttering three Neighborhood Markets and one supercenter in Chicago as they reevaluate the profitability of stores around the nation – expect more Walmart banners to close as this process begins. Whole Foods has closed their San Francisco flagship store after just one year citing employee safety concerns. As we continue to see violence – whether it be looting, grab and run or gun violence, grocery retailers have concerns. Walmart put in place a new Workplace Mental Health course to train leaders and managers to identify employees struggling with mental health challenges. Other retailers across the nation, including Hy-Vee, have added in-store armed guards outfitted with police level protective gear. Employee and customer safety are top of mind for grocery retailers’ C-suite; especially as they try to attract new workers to their stores. The situation is overwhelming and will cause store closures in those areas where the chain feels that they cannot attract (and protect) workers, and it is too dangerous to operate.
In New York, Attorney General Letitia James has proposed rules to protect consumers from dynamic pricing. Capterra’s new research, 2023 Dynamic Pricing in Restaurants Survey, found that 34% of consumers think dynamic pricing is good while 42% would order less frequently from a restaurant if they used dynamic pricing. Dynamic Pricing is what many call surge pricing, demand pricing or time-based pricing. It’s how Uber
It may be the time for supermarkets to reopen their grocerants, as restaurants with dynamic pricing experience a backlash from customers. Grocerant formats were put on hold during the pandemic, but it’s time to reimagine them. One that I’m watching closely is in a nearby Ralphs right across the street from UCLA medical. They added Kitchen United to their store. It’s a common kitchen that makes and serves food from five different menus – pizza, Chinese food, BBQ and so on. A shopper goes to the counter and can see all the menus on a touch screen and then orders off one menu or can make individual selections from different menus. One could order pizza, egg rolls and spicy chicken wings from three different menus; have them all presented at the same time, and then bring them to the seating area to enjoy. On every visit to the store, Ralph’s grocerant has been jammed with students, Drs and nurses, patients and neighbors.
Another grocery store format that supermarkets should explore is one where foodservice leaders are leading the way, and potentially stealing supermarket customers. Aramark
The topline is that 2023 will continue to be a year of change in grocery retail. The question is whether those leading our retail chains will focus on the consumer – or on their own stockholder value and profits.
Be sure to read all seven 2023 Food Trends Report columns right here on Forbes.com