Small stores like Aldi are driving shopping trips
- Consumers increasingly prefer to make need-based shopping trips rather than the stock-up visits that have long characterized supermarket shopping, according to Nielsen. The firm finds that, globally, 46% of consumers view grocery shopping as a chore, and that 10% say they’re shopping just for the meal they need that day.
- In a report issued last month, Nielsen reported that 25% of fast-moving consumer goods sales come through small stores, while 70% of shopping trips go to these locations.
- Large stores will continue to be relevant in certain markets, but the firm pointed out that small stores in high-traffic areas that offer quick in-and-out shopping will continue to grow sales at a faster pace.
The buzz around Aldi last week revolved around the company’s fresh, trendy new offerings — but that’s really only half the story. The discounter’s stores, which average 12,000 feet and are designed to be as uncomplicated and pleasant as possible, are also a key ingredient in the company’s recipe for success right now. The pint-sized format fits right in with consumers’ preference for quick-in, quick-out shopping trips.
Large supermarkets offer lots of choices, which many consumers value, though walking up and down all those aisles can be time-consuming. For the unitiated, the trip can feel like a scavenger hunt. Aldi, on the other hand, offers a curated selection that can still complete a full shopping trip — but in just six aisles. The result is a shopping experience that welcomes newcomers, and a box that often fits in spaces where traditional grocers can’t.
This explains why the German discounter is spending more than $5 billion to become the third-largest grocery player in the U.S.
It also reflects why convenience stores and dollar stores are having a moment right now. As these operators add more perishables and fresh foods, they’ll continue to siphon trips away from traditional grocers.
None of this comes as a surprise to supermarkets, which have been fending off alternative formats left and right. But the small-store invasion is one of the biggest threats they face these days, given the growth trajectory of companies like Aldi. Supermarkets have responded by putting snacks, prepared foods and other grab-and-go items at the front of the store for easy access. Many have added quick-trip sections to their store remodels.
They may need to go further. Target, for one, has begun building stores with two separate entrances — one for traditional shopping trips and one for quick trips. This offers the convenience of choice. It also makes the value of large stores fully transparent: They can be your in-and-out shop and your weekly stock-up, too. Consumers often do both, and grocers can capitalize on that behavior.
Not every grocer can build two separate entrances. However, they can promote their ability to cater to all types of shopping trips through savvy marketing. Traditional grocers can also leverage e-commerce to retain those large trips that they’ve counted on for so long. The trick is getting people to move their shopping online — something many grocers aren’t motivated to do.
Although they can be arduous when completed in-store, stock-up trips offer their own form of convenience. Retailers that cater to these shops would do well to emphasize that fact. The beauty of online shopping, meanwhile, is that it can make those large, profitable shops easy through saved orders, list-building tools and other features.
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