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Find the Best Grocery Stores

by ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Modern grocery stores have grown into large chains of regional stores that offer consumers a wide variety of fresh food, non-perishables and household items produced by many different brands. Use our guide to research the best grocery store for you. Many stores provide specialty services like in-store pharmacies, banks and on-site gas stations. Technology also plays a significant role in making grocery shopping more convenient for consumers. From online shopping to stores with no checkout lines, grocery shopping is becoming less time-consuming for customers.

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What do people look for in a grocery stores?

What products do grocery stores offer?

Possibly the most noticeable aspect of a supermarket is the product selection. Which brands the store carries, the type of food available and how much will depend on the store size and who each particular chain uses as a distributor. Larger chains might own their own distribution network, allowing for cheaper distribution costs, and therefore cheaper costs for the consumer.

  • Non-perishables: Supermarkets stock non-perishable items in bulk. Items such as canned goods and boxed goods will have long shelf lives, meaning they won’t spoil unless their package is opened.
  • Perishables: Perishable food includes meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables and cooked foods. Stores will need to have large refrigerators and freezers to store perishable items for an extended period of time.
  • Organic: Many supermarkets have sections of their stores dedicated to organic and naturally produced foods including fresh produce, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and natural dairy products. Some stores have their own organic brand and source locally-grown produce.
  • Brands: Different supermarket chains will carry different brands. Many consumers stay loyal to a particular brand of food, whether it be a name brand or generic brand.

What kind of specialty services do grocery stores provide?

Many medium- to large-sized supermarket chains now provide consumers with specialty services such as in-store pharmacies, banks and on-site gas stations.

  • Pharmacies: Pharmacies in supermarkets are a fast-growing trend that continues to see growth each year. Pharmacists like to practice in supermarkets because of the professional services stores offer patients. Some in-store pharmacies are starting to expand to deal with specialty patients with complex healthcare needs like diseases requiring multiple pharmacy visits.
  • Banks: Many supermarket chains have in-store bank branches where consumers can take care of any banking errands while grocery shopping. Banks and supermarkets consider in-store branches a win-win situation; consumers save time, banks have a steady stream of customers and the supermarket gets another source of guaranteed income from the bank’s rent payment.
  • Gas stations: Some larger supermarket chains offer on-site gas stations. These gas stations compete with traditional gas stations, so location and price are the main deciding factors in how well they perform. Many supermarkets provide consumers with loyalty programs offering discounts and cheaper fuel costs.

How are grocery stores using technology?

Companies are developing new ways to make shopping for groceries less time consuming and more of a convenience for consumers. Through mobile apps and online shopping platforms, supermarkets are streamlining the supermarket experience and making grocery shopping more convenient.

  • Online shopping: Many supermarkets are offering online shopping as a time-saving, convenient way for consumers to buy groceries. People can browse deals online, place orders at any time and choose a convenient delivery time and location, all without leaving their homes.
  • Mobile apps: Some supermarkets have mobile apps designed to enhance the in-store experience and make shopping easier for consumers. Independent app developers make store-specific apps that work in multiple store chains. Some of these app features include maps of store layouts and barcode scanners that allow customers to total their items as they shop.
  • Management alerts: A few large supermarkets are looking into management alerts that let store managers know when more registers need to be opened. A system using infrared sensors counts the number of customers coming and going, as well as how many customers are in line waiting to checkout using infrared sensors.
  • Automatic checkouts: Automatic checkout systems are currently being tested to do away with checkout lines completely. The process involves tagging grocery items with radio tags that are read as a customer leaves the store. The bill is paid by the consumer’s credit card on their smartphone.

How do grocery stores price their products?

The goal of any supermarket is to keep prices low for the consumer while staying competitive and maintaining consistent profitability. Some of the main pricing strategies used by supermarkets are leader pricing, everyday low pricing and zone pricing.

  • Leader pricing: Sometimes supermarkets will sell high-demand items at abnormally low prices, often taking a loss on that item. The goal is to attract bargain shoppers who will buy the product simply because it is on sale, leading them to buy other products in the store. Leader pricing is used on a limited basis.
  • Everyday low pricing: Everyday low pricing is a strategy that involves keeping prices on high-demand items permanently low. Stores implement this strategy so that consumers won’t mistrust advertising or think there is a hidden catch with certain prices. It has the same underlying theory as leader pricing in that, once consumers are in the store for the lower priced products, they will continue to buy products that offer a higher profit margin.
  • Zone pricing: Large supermarkets collect data on customers buying habits and use it to construct pricing profiles for different stores in various regions. For example, customers in high-income regions might be willing to pay more money for certain products than in other regions.

What are the different types of grocery stores?

Small scale grocery stores

Small-scale supermarkets carry perishable food items such as canned, bottled and boxed goods. Most small-scale grocers will have a section of the store where they provide fresh produce, meat and baked goods.

Large scale grocery stores

Large scale supermarkets not only offer a wide variety of perishable and fresh foods, but also they provide consumers with household products such as kitchenware, cleaning products, furniture and pet supplies. Many larger supermarkets will have in-store specialty services like pharmacies, banks or cafes. These all-inclusive stores can sometimes be referred to as hypermarkets.

Health food grocery stores

Health food specific grocery stores focus on selling organic foods including fresh produce, meat, dairy and baked goods. Many times, health food grocery stores will source from local suppliers or use their own brand of organic food.

Online grocery stores

A growing number of stores are offering online grocery shopping. Aside from being able to shop from anywhere with an internet connection, benefits of online grocery shopping include flexible delivery options, easy returns and daily deals.

Who shops at grocery stores?

Individual consumers

Individuals shop at neighborhood grocery stores for non-perishable foods, fresh produce and fresh foods such as meat, dairy and baked goods.

Families

Small and large families shop at supermarkets so they can buy things in bulk. Most supermarkets carry enough variation in their products so families can treat them as a one-stop shop for their food and specialty service needs.

Health food shoppers

Many supermarkets today are carrying healthier options such as organic, natural foods and locally grown produce.

Not sure how to choose?

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    Compare Reviews for Top Grocery Stores

    by ConsumerAffairs Research Team

    The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.

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