The Traditional Grocer

Grocery stores are located throughout the world, although their size and range of goods and services vary. According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the grocery store industry is made up of supermarkets and convenience stores that do not sell gas. In 2006, there were approximately 34,000 traditional supermarkets. Of these 34,000 traditional supermarkets, 75 percent were operated by a chain of supermarkets that owned 11 or more grocery stores. The rest were operated by independent owners that operate fewer than 11 grocery stores. In 2008, there were 35,394 traditional supermarkets with annual sales of $2 million or more.

Traditional supermarkets sold mostly fresh meats and produce, canned or packaged goods and dry goods such as flour and sugar to people who lived in the neighborhood. They also usually stocked a few nonfood items used in preparing home-cooked meals, such as aluminum foil and paper napkins. These days supermarkets sell a wide range of traditional grocery items, general merchandise, and health and beauty products, plus a wide assortment of prepared foods, such as hot entrees, salads, and deli sandwiches for takeout. Most supermarkets have several specialty departments that may include seafood, meat, bakery, deli, produce, and floral.

For over 20 years grocery stores have been facing growing competition from the warehouse club stores and supercenters. The Food Marketing Institute shows that in 2007 the average size of a grocery store dipped slightly to a median of 47,500 square feet. To compete with club and supercenter stores, grocery stores have been selling more general merchandise items and providing a greater variety of services to cater to the one-stop shopper.

Ethnic grocery stores are some of the fastest-growing stores in the country. Providing specialized services and products unique to a particular neighborhood and its shoppers helps these grocers build loyalty and contribute to a sense of community among local residents. Of course, small grocery stores have been around forever and some old-time neighborhood markets still exist. There is also an increase in the number of grocery stores that cater to upscale clientele and those that sell mostly natural and organic foods. Specialty retailers have proved that shoppers will flock to smaller stores if they are offered a novel experience.