Greengrocers

How the food retail industry has changed over the past few decades

The attitude to the food retail industry has changed over the years, with both the practical experience and personal attitude having changed over time. This has affected the demand for supermarkets and the way they need to be built. Public attitude to supermarket shopping has changed with more and more choice easily available, as well as a growing number of customers now choosing to buy online without visiting the store at all. So how has this changed the food retail industry over time?

Pre-1900s food retail trends

Before the 1900s, independent retailers focused on one aspect only, for example butchers or greengrocers were popular and these were widely recognised as trades. The norm was that different stores sold different types of food items. In January 1948, Britain’s first supermarket opened in East London, and although this was only a small version of the supermarkets that we are familiar with today, it was the beginning of big changes for the food retail industry. This was the first Co-op, or London Co-operative Society.

The rise of the supermarket

At the time of the first supermarket, the idea of helping yourself to items off of the shelves was a completely new one. Before this point, customers didn’t take items for themselves – instead the shop assistant would attend to each customer’s requirements, however this new approach provided a more efficient way to shop. This also meant that items were available at cheaper prices as the shelves were stocked full, which saw the decline in smaller specialised stores. By around 1970, 30% of the food retail market share was taken by independent stores, with smaller percentages being held by emerging supermarkets like the Co-op, Sainsbury and Tesco as they began to grow.

Emerging supermarket trends

The diminishing need for high levels of in-store assistance mean that new styles of shopping are emerging. Supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl, who model a simpler example of shopping in-store, have now taken over almost 10% of the food retail market. These stores offer products often at a fraction of the price of the leading supermarkets, with an emphasis on cheap bulk buying rather than offering high-end brands or a huge range of choices of the same products. This means customers can shop for less, albeit without the personal feel and great customer service that larger supermarket chains often provide.

What’s next?

It is predicted that supermarkets offering low-cost products will grow over time, as this offers significant savings to customers. It is likely that the big players may need to reassess their supermarket model in order to cut the costs of running large stores, especially with online ordering on the increase too. It is unclear as yet which approach will sway buyers and prove to be the most successful model, but it is unlikely that we will see the disappearance of stores just yet, as many customers still like to be able to choose their own food from what is in front of them.

Did you know that the RG started out working for the food retail industry back in 1989, building Sainsbury’s stores up and down the country? We have now worked with many of the top supermarket chains to build stores across the UK. Take a look at some of our recent retail projects or give us a call today on 01732 526 850.

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