Independent small grocers is a key component of traditional grocery retailers in the US, especially in larger US cities, where these stores – sometimes referred to as “bodegas” – are incredibly important to lower-income consumers. Many of these individuals live in so-called “food deserts” – that is, areas without easy access to a supermarket or hypermarket – and so often rely on independent small grocers for their grocery needs.
Drinks specialists – retail outlets with a primary focus on selling beer, wine and spirits – are included in Euromonitor International’s definition of traditional grocery retailers. Not only did these stores remain the most significant distribution channel for alcoholic drinks in the US in 2018, they also continued to post yearly value sales growth, despite the ongoing trend of consumers heading to modern grocery retailers (such as hypermarkets) to purchase alcohol.
Traditional grocery retailers continued to be one of the leading channels for tobacco sales in the US, but the product mix in this category has changed significantly. Although volume sales of cigarettes continued to decline over the review period, retail sales of vapour products surged.
As hypermarkets and internet retailing continued to gain share within the grocery space by endeavouring to provide the widest selection of products to consumers, many traditional grocery retailers have taken the opposite approach. Many players in traditional grocery retailers in the US – dominated by independents – have instead found success in specialisation.
Although traditional grocery retailers and variety stores have long co-existed in many areas of the US, the tendency for the former to focus specifically on food has allowed the channel to stand apart from variety stores in most consumers’ minds, with the latter perceived as a sales channel for general merchandise. However, fixed-price stores have started to encroach upon traditional grocery retailers’ environment, with leading chains such as Dollar General and Dollar Tree aggressively expanding their selections of groceries.
Grocery retailers has long been thought of as being more protected from the impact of internet retailing than most other retail channels in the US, chiefly by virtue of the additional expense and effort needed to deliver refrigerated and frozen food items (as opposed to shelf stable items) directly to consumers. However, 2018 witnessed food and drink internet retailing value sales surge over the course of the year.
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