Brainier paths to inventory

December 05, 2013

Want to excite more shoppers who love food? Change inventory with what’s on their minds throughout the year.

Imagine supermarkets that change the foods they sell according to hot trends in their trading areas.  The result could be a hipper relevancy to their most food-passionate customers, including Millennials, Boomers and foodies. 

Merchants could anticipate, map and source inventory for hot cycles in several ways, we feel at The Lempert Report.  They could use incisive analytics and POS data.  They could monitor and engage in social media.  They could calendar upcoming holidays and seasons (including flu, storm and back-to-school, as well as Christmas and other celebratory times).  They could connect to community events such as high school, college and pro sports, new building openings and new housing. 

Opportunistic, yes.  Relatable to consumers, yes.  Worth doing? We think it would help stores to differentiate, attract trips, keep share vs. other channels and Amazon, be destinations, and foster freer spending.  In environments like these, emotions, fun and cultural traditions would also influence buying, and encourage people to buy more at higher prices.  

Such stores would also be cooler to work at; they’d serve as their own best recruitment tools.

Would they be challenging to strategize and execute?  Probably.  But maybe not fundamentally harder to achieve than what Grocery Outlet does—to shift inventory based on available deals.  Triggers would differ and product sources may be more diverse, but the steps that follow would be classic supermarket operations and marketing, enhanced perhaps by mobile technologies.

We bring this up now for two reasons:  First, more channels (including Amazon) are rapidly improving how they sell food.  Second, supermarkets that stepped up their game to appeal to foodies need to do more to keep them interested, or they could risk losing them.  This may be happening to the once-sizzling Food Network.  Nielsen figures showed a 16% drop in its key viewer demo of 25- to 54-year-olds in the first half of 2013, the New York Post reported.