Supermarkets and the loss of Customers

There was a fantastic article in the New York Times entitled “An Identity Crisis for Supermarkets” (LI:accidental PW:hedonist)which touched upon several items relating to issues we’ve alluded to here before.

There’s two things that are very apparent when reading the article:

1. Supermarkets know that there is a huge problem.
2. They have no idea on how to fix it.

Oh, they have ideas. Cutting prices is always a good thing, and will always meet with my approval. But the Safeways and Krogers of the world are addicted to cash. Until they get rid of the slotting fees (which are in large part the cause to the higher costs of many items), they’ll only raise the prices of some other product to ensure that others are lowered.

What are the products that they will most likely apply the high prices? The organic and natural food items as well as the prepared foods for quick lunches and dinners. If you think I’m kidding, check out the prices of a turkey sandwich the next time you head to your supermarket – at the last check in my neighborhood, hey were running at four dollars. Considering a person could get a better quality sandwhich at the Subway next door, this pricing model is not likely to last.

Other solutions mentioned in the article are simply ridiculous and don’t address the larger issues. If you’re a company spokesperson, and you’re extoling the virtues of your new olive bar, or are beaming with pride at the fact that you’ve moved your ice cream freezers to the front of the store (to prevent the ice cream from melting you see), then your company is in big trouble.

Because the problem of supermarkets isn’t the lack of olives or that I have to rush home to save my fudge ripple. The problem is trust. I simply don’t trust the Safeways and the Krogers of the world.

I don’t trust them to put quality meat into the meat counter, because they removed butchers from the store long ago. I don’t trust the produce department to have the best tasting produce available, because supermarkets have removed any fruit or veggie that couldn’t sit out on the shelf for longer than four days. Oh, and they replaced knowledgable produce staff with people who couldn’t tell me the difference between a sweet potato and a yam.

Their dairy departments have practices that almost destroyed the small milk producers and the artisinal cheese makers. Oh, and the markets shelf space is up for sale to the highest bidder, rather than to the companies who have the consumers best interest in mind.

Granted, I’m not representative of your typical shopper. I probably put a little more thought into supermarkets than a great majority of people, but I’m willing to bet that trust ranks high on many people’s minds when it comes to supermarkets, even if they can’t communicate why they don’t trust these mega-corps any more.

But who knows? Once they put in their softer lighting and their wood-simulated floors, they may get my trust back. Because clearly that’s why people haven’t been shopping at these places as much as they used to.

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