The Future of Food Retail in North America, Part 3: The rise of the indie retailer

Posted in Trends Written by Chris Schotsman

Over the last decade, we've seen many retail giants close thousands of stores. Back in 2015, Loblaws announced the closure of 52 stores across Canada. In the US, the situation is similar. Last year, K-Mart closed over 200 stores while CVS closed almost 100. At the same time, Walmart and Amazon have both expanded — making them seem almost "untouchable".

With so many big players struggling to stay afloat, online store expansions and headlines of the so-called "retail apocalypse" it'd be easy to think that there is no room for new brick and mortar stores. We're here to show you the opposite.

The new generation of shoppers is embracing the idea of buying local and are helping lead the way by driving up demand for smaller specialized food stores — and many of them are independently owned. Indie food chains are also following this trend and thriving.

Here are five reasons independent specialized food retailers are popping back onto the grocery landscape:

1. Smaller is better

Why is smaller better for many of today's consumers? When they step into a gigantic grocery store, it can be overwhelming. If you only want to pick up 10 items really quickly, you don't want to walk the length of a football field and back, potentially multiple times, to find those things. Especially if you don't know exactly where to find a couple of those things. Specialized retailers such as cheese shops or organic stores are smaller in size and typically offers a specialized or curated selection, making for a quicker and less stressful shopping experience.

##2. Urban stores need to fit in smaller spaces

With more people living in urban centres, there's simply not enough room for a 60,000 square foot grocery store. A local shop that's 20,000 to 30,000 square feet (or smaller) simply fits better in the city. Plus, if well-situated, they can capture commuter traffic or tourists.

##3. It's a more fine-tuned experience

Consumers tend to be more comfortable, and less anxious about their shopping experience when their choice is limited. Cognitive overload is a serious issue in our modern society, and specialized retailers can alleviate this by establishing trust with their clientele and curating their experience. This way there may only be one type of ketchup, but it's the ketchup the store recommends, rather than giving customers 10 different colours (remember purple ketchup?), flavours (Heinz offers 9!) and brands (the average grocery will carry 3!) to choose from.

##4. They can evolve easily

Lacking the bureaucracy of a large grocery chain, an independent or specialized retailer can more easily adapt to customers' needs. The owners can be right there on the floor listening to customers and helping them right away. What takes a large chain a year's worth of meetings, paperwork and construction to do, an independent store could potentially do in a matter of days or even hours.

##5. Millennials want things now

From pre-ordering a latte online for a quick pickup to shopping for groceries, the Millennial generation tends to like things fast, to fit into their busy lifestyles. A smaller store means a quicker shopping experience — and smaller grocers like Goodless Me are learning from the big retailers and augmenting the in-store experience by offering online ordering and even in-store pick up! Others like The Mustard Seed in Hamilton, ON offer fresh grocery bundle subscriptions, ready to be picked up once a week!

So, what's the future looking like for independent and specialized food retailers in North America? We say bright.

Do you find your local independent store offers a more convenient shopping experience? Or maybe you own one or are thinking of owning one yourself. We've worked with many specialty, and independent food retails across North America and have learned a few insights along the way. Those insights allowed us to develop three collections of modular display cases with the independent retailer in mind. These collections are designed to be configured for any store layout and reflect your unique brand with a selection of dozens of colours or finishes. Independent retailers can now get access to the full Cayuga experience without paying a fortune for new designs or having to wait long for production!

View All Posts