With the evolution of “Superstores” and “One Stop Shopping,” downtown markets have become extinct. In Albion, it’s been 75 years since there has been a true market. That’s when Superior Street Mercantile opened in the location that was previously FEDCO, a downtown liquor store.
According to grocery industry experts, small grocers can grow and prosper even with superstore competition. Small food stores cannot compete based on price and selection. However, they can feature unique products and services that the superstores do not offer. That’s why gaining customer loyalty through consistent value, and good shopping experiences is essential.
I wanted to share a list of attributes that small downtown groceries need to focus on to provide value to the community and build a sustainable business.
Service – Small downtown grocery stores must provide service that today’s large “superstores” can not and will not offer their customers. The service must be fast and friendly while exceeding customers’ expectations. While this is important at all times, weekends are critical for this level of service as customers live their busy lives trying to maximize their weekend experiences.
Convenience- Customers who frequent small downtown markets often do not expect all the services they might get from a “superstore experience.” Businesses must poll their core customer base to understand the community’s needs and keep track of what customers desire.
Technology- Technology simplifies the shopping experience and optimizes the value of location. While younger age groups embrace technology, integrating technology into everyone’s shopping experience may not work. If a core customer base is elderly, they may be unable to adapt to technology such as self-checkout or grocery carts with a computerized display. Again, delivering on expectations starts with knowing your core customer base.
Story Atmosphere- Store presentation is critical to everyone (no age group discrimination here) who visits. A pleasant, clean, and fresh atmosphere provides a shopping experience that the customer does not only value but it will also be a driver for return visits. (And hopefully, a way for customers to share their experience with their network.)
Unique Foods- The store needs to be able to differentiate itself by its product offerings. Finding that niche of products will likely drive long-term value to the community and long-term success for the business. Owners should study products and test offerings to find that “Sweet Spot” and create the experience shoppers desire at small-town markets.
Superior Street Mercantile is less than one year old and is working to find its way. Working to provide the experience customers want, the environment they want to frequent, and the products they desire. We look forward to your feedback as we grow in Albion.