Three workplace segments to mine

November 17, 2011

A more demanding workplace makes it harder for many to fit in food. Supermarkets can fill the void and benefit.

Supermarkets work so hard to supply food for families at home that some appear to neglect people’s food needs at work. Yet stores that go beyond conventional prepared-food sections, and get innovative with meal assembly, small portions and healthful snacks that help keep workers’ energy levels steady through the day, should be able to drive traffic and trips during quieter hours. Also, coffee-and promotions, rotating specials, free wi-fi and networking events could get more people to frequent the store.

Since the recession intensified workplace pressures and work habits, F3 believes retailers that synchronize food with what workers (and people seeking work) face everyday will simply sell more. Therefore, F3 urges supermarkets to consider the food implications of three concurrent trends today: more telecommuters and self-employed, people working longer hours, and the high rate of unemployed.

More telecommuters and self-employed. According to a 2011 report by the Telework Research Network, The State of Telework in the U.S.: How Individuals, Business and Government Benefit
• 45% of the U.S. workforce has a job compatible with at least part-time telework.
• 50 million U.S. employees who want to work from home have telework-compatible jobs, but just 2.9 million (2.3% of the workforce) consider home their primary place of work.
• Regular telecommuting grew by 61% between 2005 and 2009.  During the same period, home-based self-employment grew by 1.7%.  
• Based on current trends, with no growth acceleration, regular telecommuters will total 4.9 million by 2016, up 69% from today’s level.
• The typical telecommuter is a 49-year-old, college-educated, salaried, non-union employee in a management or professional role, earning $58,000 a year at a company with more than 100 employees.
• Over 75% of employees who work from home earn over $65,000 annually.
• In a quarter of the nation’s 20 largest metro areas, more people now telecommute than use public transportation as their “principal means of transportation to work.”

While this growing segment of telecommuters likes their no-commute convenience, says F3, they also want to interact with others. Supermarkets that fill their food and social needs with free wi-fi, lunch and coffee-and promotions could become a regular habit of telecommuters in their area.

People working longer hours. The new normal of extended workdays can play havoc with meal times, nutritional intake, energy swings and food satisfaction.  F3 believes supermarkets that provide easy, healthful pre-assembled meals, snacks and beverages could become preferred resources for a stressed workforce. Stores that offer ready solutions enable quicker buying decisions and make shopping easier.  

High rate of unemployed. To keep the nine percent unemployed (far higher in some population sectors) from migrating to dollar and drug stores, supercenters and wholesale clubs for better prices, supermarkets could emphasize the quality and prices of their private labels, and as The Lempert Report mentioned in a recent story, bring layaway programs to stores for big-ticket food purchases such as holiday entertaining, Halloween block parties, birthday and graduation celebrations. Also, networking events and self-marketing classes on an otherwise slow weekday evening (perhaps coordinated with a local college, library or county legislator’s office) could build appreciation and traffic.