Grocery shopping doesn't have to be an annoying chore. Thanks to stores like Wegmans and (the overrated IMHO) Central Market, some people make it a weekend recreation, reports Maria Puente in USA Today. Here's an excerpt:
These companies say they're successful because they have figured out how to tempt customers away from the convenience of 7-Eleven and the low prices of Wal-Mart by teaching employees to build relationships with shoppers through personal service.
"They're making shopping more aspirational and pleasurable," says Andrew Seth, co-author of Supermarket Wars. "They show customers they care about them, and they give them great food."
The result: America is both a Wal-Mart nation and a Wegmans nation. And even Wal-Mart is trying to look more like Wegmans or Whole Foods: The retailer just announced it's going to double its organic offerings in many of its 3,800 stores. Likewise, Safeway has tried to follow the Whole Foods and Trader Joe's model by introducing its Lifestyle stores, which feature such amenities as hardwood floors and more prepared meals.
"It used to be the three most important things for a supermarket were location, location, location," says Michael Sansolo of the Food Marketing Institute.
"Shoppers now are willing to drive to experience something they feel brings them value, and not just in the monetary sense. For some, it's Wegmans; for others it's Wal-Mart."
And for many, it's both, or even more. "Shoppers are actually increasing their channel surfing," says Laurie Demeritt, president of the market research firm the Hartman Group in Bellevue, Wash. "They might go to Wal-Mart to stock up on (bulk items). And when they want to buy hormone-free milk, they'll go to Wild Oats."
And if you want to find Diet Coke on a Sunday or Monday, you'd better go somewhere besides my neighborhood Albertson's.