Even though some of the world's largest retail chains are those that sell groceries, supermarkets and grocery store chains are often ignored in favor of sexier retail news from apparel, electronics, and restaurant retailers. Recent news about supermarket chains around the world still may not be sexy, but it is definitely noteworthy news for the global retail industry in general. Here's a roundup of some of the most significant news stories coming from supermarket chains around the world...
Caught Between a Rocked Supermarket Boat and a Hard-Working Place
After ten months of negotiations, the United Food Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in Northern California recommended that Save Mart employees accept the latest version of the employment contract that had been hammered out on their behalf with the regional supermarket chain. The Save Mart employees, however, ignored the UFCW recommendation, and rejected the proposed contract by a majority vote.
So, even though grocery stores are the most unionized niche of the U.S. retail industry, Save Mart Supermarket employees have proven that the power of the union is not as mighty as the power of the people. UFCW officials are now placed in the position to renegotiate with Save Mart for things they already agreed weren't necessary for a fair contract. And that's not much of a bargaining position.
Tesco Tests Airport Supermarket With 30,000 UK Travelers
With Olympic size traffic moving through the UK airports this summer, food retailer Tesco decided it was a good time to launch the UK retail industry's first virtual supermarket at Gatwick Airport. This doesn't mean that airline passengers will be toting milk and eggs home in their carry-on luggage. Rather, travelers can order from a selection of 80 grocery staple items via interactive screens in the airport departure lounge, and their groceries will be delivered to their home the day they return home from their trip.
Tesco has already tested this virtual supermarket idea in South Korean train and bus stations with considerable success, so moving their cyber refrigerator and cupboard terminals into airports seemed like the next logical step. To do your virtual grocery shopping at the airport, you'll need a smartphone, a Tesco smartphone app, and the exact date and time of your arrival back home. There's no word on how Tesco plans to handle flight delays, but hopefully that plan (or lack of a plan) doesn't include sour milk on the doorsteps of the 30,000 people who fly in and out of the Gatwick North Terminal every day.
More Supermarket Super Technology
Comparison shopping for Kroger (KR) and Safeway (SWY) shoppers is no longer just about comparing prices between stores. It's also about comparing prices that are being offered to individual shoppers with the help of some high tech marketing tools the two supermarket chains have been using this summer. Thanks to data mining technology, Kroger and Safeway have been creating personalized pricing which effectively creates different prices for different people reaching for the same product on the grocery store shelf at the same time.
Data gathered through grocery store loyalty programs is what makes personalized pricing possible. Based on a consumer's past grocery purchasing behaviors, grocers are able to issue customized coupons, encouraging specific upsells, and even change website prices on a shopper-by-shopper basis. The result of these personalized pricing efforts is similar to a plane full of airline passengers who have each paid a different price for their ticket. But while lower airfares are a matter of timing and demand, lower grocery store prices are not equally accessible to all shoppers, which could be perceived as unfair or discriminatory.
One example of personalized supermarket pricing has been created by grocery retailer Ahold with its Scan It! grocery shopping app. This smartphone app works inside the company's Shop & Save grocery stores and allows shoppers to scan products as they put them in their cart and keep a running total of their grocery purchases. While this is seemingly a nice service for the Stop & Shop supermarket shopper, it is actually a sophisticated data-gathering system for the grocery store. When the Scan It! app is used, Ahold's computers gain information about a shopper's exact location in the supermarket, and the exact items they are purchasing.
This kind of cyber surveillance might seem creepy to the average grocery store shopper if they realized it was going on. But most shoppers are too distracted by the special coupons popping onto their mobile device to care that Big Supermarket Brother is watching them. Isn't it clever that these pop-up discount items are conveniently located in the aisle where I am standing right now?
It seems like some generous gifts are being bestowed on price-conscious Shop & Stop shoppers. But the desired result of these personalized discounts is to entice consumers to spend more, thus blowing the spending budget that the Scan It! app was supposed to be tracking.
Supermarket savings or market manipulation? Only Shop & Save, Save Mart, and Kroger customers know for sure.
Flash Mob Robbers Make a Super Political Statement in Spain Supermarkets
As a symbolic protest of government austerity in Spain, a group of worker's union members filled shopping carts with food at two different supermarkets and walked out with the groceries, but without paying. In a Robinhoodian gesture, the activist thieves then donated the stolen food to charity.
If the two supermarkets were owned and operated by the Spanish government, this toothpaste-for-a-tootpaste brand of justice would have made a little more sense. But the flash mob robbers still considered their actions to be an effective form of civil disobedience because of the media attention it provided to their cause.
An equal amount of media attention was given to the arrest of the suspects.
The Aussie Supermarket Duopoly - Oxymoronic or Governmental?
A report by the Master Grocers Australia and Liquor Retailers Australia revealed that 80% of grocery store purchases in Australia are split between just two supermarket chains - Coles and Woolworths ("Woolies" to their best friends). While there's nothing surprising to Australia retailers or consumers about this figure, the report did reveal some surprising evidence that Coles and Woolies are using aggressive practices which may be in violation of the Australian Competition and Consumer Authority to drive independent grocers out of business.
"Unfair competition" is a little bit like "war crimes" in that they both seem a bit oxymoronic. Looking to government to be the fair competition referee may be just plain moronic. Since grocery shoppers vote with their dollars every day, the most effective way to take power away from the Coles-Woolies grocery duopoly is for grocery shoppers to take 80% of their grocery budget elsewhere. When it comes to retail competition, there's not much difference between aggressive action and passive support.
Rock Star Opportunity for Supermarket Superstars
The newest reality show headed for the Lifetime network in the U.S. is "Supermarket Superstars," a TV show which will give food product inventors a chance to capture something as elusive as a rock star recording contract. That is, national supermarket shelf space.
Supermarket Superstars will undoubtedly be a hit with individual culinary inventors who want to be just that. As it is now with the largest U.S. supermarket chains, there is very little chance for individuals to get a food product onto supermarket shelves among the other 48,000 items. That is, unless you're willing and able to pay a hefty multi-million dollar "slotting fee" up front, or you're able to sidestep the supermarket system altogether by winning a reality show challenge.
There is a question, though, about whether this reality TV show's format will be entertaining enough for those who are only interested in what they take off the supermarket shelves. And there is an even bigger question about why producers think that Stacy Keibler is the host that will appeal to the typical supermarket shopper. It's hard to believe that the model-actress-wrestler spends a lot of time doing grocery shopping, or even grocery eating, for that matter. So what is Stacy's connection to the retail food business that makes her a relevant host?
The Fun and Funny Side of Supermarkets
Because grocery shopping is an activity shared by so many people around the world every day, a trip to the supermarket is both a forgettable everyday chore, and an iconic human experience, depending how you look at it. It seems that everybody who's anybody has something fun or funny to say about supermarkets >>