A New Study Tries to Make the Case for Center Store

The Lempert Report
July 16, 2018

Sounding like it was ripped from the headlines, a new Catalina study gives the impression that if they say how important center store is – again and again and again, we will believe it.

Their report “The Center Store Revolution: Innovation Drives Trips and Category Growth,”says thatthe Center Store remains a ‘vital driver of trips and volume for grocery retailers’, with more than 99 percent of all shoppers purchasing from the Center Store in 2017.  Well of course 99 percent bought at least one item from center store in the course of last year. Ketchup, mustard, olive oil, canned soup – or whatever.  

Catalina says that the study underscores how brands that introduce innovative, often-niche products that address evolving consumer motivations are keeping the Center Store relevant. The examples they give include non-fat/low fat ice cream (technically not center store), value-priced entrée frozen dinners (again, technically not), sparkling/seltzer water (hardly innovative), ready-made coffee drinks (been around for at least 20 years), window and glass cleaners (no comment), fresh rolls (again not center store), dried meat snacks, vinegar, value-priced bath tissue, and a variety of snack and candy subcategories.  

 My fear is that while center store has been declining and brands are doing their best to reformulate and innovate reports like this are misleading. 

“The Center Store is alive and well,” said Marta Cyhan, head of marketing for Catalina said in a release. “Some 8 in 10 baskets we looked at included a Center Store item, but many consumers are looking to discover something different. A new generation of brands and subcategories are reinvigorating the Center Store by appealing to lifestyle and ingredient-based preferences.” 

Don’t misunderstand where I am coming from. The study is an important one, but before headlines come out saying how center store is doing so much better, lets read another fact from the study: “The Center Store accounted for 60 annual trips per shopper, per store, down just one trip per shopper, per store from 2016.” Or this one “81 percent of all shopping baskets included at least one Center Store item.”