Jim Thompson is Executive Vice President of Operations for Regency Centers.
It’s no secret that being grocery-anchored is a key fundamental to our continued success. Eighty percent of our centers have a grocery component, complemented by a merchandising mix of convenience, daily needs and service-focused retailers.
It has given us a lot of insight into how things are evolving on a macro, as well as, a micro level. Even as grocers modify their in-store experiences for today’s consumer, they are still looking for the same elements of quality retail in order to be successful: high visibility, ease of access, and convenience. It is how they are using these elements in new ways that is the real driver of change.
The More Things Change...
Disruption in retail, and even in grocery, is nothing new. The dramatic headlines claiming that the retail sky is falling are missing the point of what these disruption points create – innovation.
Consumer preference will continue to shift towards e-commerce, mobile technology, and convenience. At the same time, consumers will continue to see value, goods, and services found in physical stores that provide shoppers with some combination of convenience and experience. Here are some of our favorite in-store adaptations from our best-in-class grocery operators:
Convenience is king, and the way in which shoppers utilize that convenience at a center varies from person to person. For those who look to a shopping center to be their everyday-needs hub, the click-and-collect method is a powerful tool in maintaining a person’s busy work/live/play trifecta. Working with grocers as they continue to evolve their offerings requires us to accommodate their success. This includes things like designated areas of the parking lot for picking up groceries, and other pilot programs with major operators across the country.
This is an exploding concept that saw widespread popularity from a fantastic operator in Wegmans. Along with Whole Foods Market, they were one of the first to really capitalize on the dynamic and experiential draw that these in-store restaurants could offer. Many people who don't even need groceries will meet their friends and family for dinner at one of their locations. This is due to the quality of the prepared food, plus the diverse dining options that they present that aren’t found else at traditional eateries. Whole Foods Market is taking it a step further by bringing in known third-party concepts. These blur the lines between what is owned by the grocer and what is a separate brand. This brand partnership benefits all parties – especially the consumer. We are excited to see how this concept continues to grow and develop.
This has been another interesting transition from digital to bricks-and-mortar. Companies like Blue Apron and Plated are realizing some of the benefits that the physical space can offer that they might not have been getting from a digitally centric model. This includes things like distribution that might have been more difficult without the partnership. Traditional grocers have seen the success of this convenient and diverse approach to meal preparation, and are using it to better connect with new market behaviors. It is a great and creative union of what many thought were opposing sides.
A lot of operators are testing out the delivery option to see if it is a viable strategy for the future. Meal-kit services became successful through a food-delivery model, but have changed course a bit to head back into the physical space of the grocery store. While it is seeing positive implementation and use in some markets, it will be a concept to watch as grocers continue to test this as a long-term strategy.
Under the Macroscope
Market changes are happening even as we speak, and this is some of what it looks like on the grocery level. Those who have been willing to adapt and embrace new methods of success are thriving, while those who haven’t, aren’t. We have seen this at every disruption point in grocery/retail history, and it’s important that we remain flexible to adapt to our grocer’s needs and new initiatives. Their success is our success, and we will always strive to be the best partners in that success as possible.