Grocery Stores

Significant Points

* Numerous job openings—many of them part time—should be available due to the industry’s large size and high replacement needs.
* Young workers age 16 to 24 hold one-third of grocery store jobs.
* Cashiers and stock clerks account for one-half of all jobs.
Nature of the Industry

Grocery stores are familiar to most people and located throughout the country, although their size and range of goods and services they sell varies. The grocery store industry is made up of supermarkets and convenience stores that do not sell gas. Stores in the grocery store industry sell primarily food items, including perishable foods, and may sell some nonfood items, but they do not specialize in selling certain types of foods, such as just meat, seafood, or health food. Stores that sell a mixture of food and more general merchandise, such as supercenters or warehouse club stores, are not in this industry.

Goods and Services

Traditional supermarkets sold mostly fresh meats and produce, canned or packaged goods, and dry goods such as flour and sugar to people who lived in the neighborhood. They also usually stocked a few nonfood items used in preparing home-cooked meals, such as aluminum foil and paper napkins. These days supermarkets sell a wide range of traditional grocery items, general merchandise, and health and beauty products, plus a wide assortment of prepared foods, such as hot entrees, salads, and deli sandwiches for takeout. Most supermarkets have several specialty departments that may include seafood, meat, bakery, deli, produce, and floral.

Nonfood items that can be found at larger supermarkets include household goods, health and beauty care items, pet products, and greeting cards. Some of the largest supermarkets may have concession counters, hot food and beverage bars or food courts, plus seating areas where patrons can eat while on the premises. In addition, many grocery stores offer catering services, automated teller machines, a pharmacy, postal services, and drop-off locations for film processing, drycleaning, and video rentals. Some grocery stores may lease space to banks, coffee shops, and other service providers, but these services are usually not performed by the grocery store.

Convenience stores typically sell a limited line of high-convenience items and food basics, such as milk, bread, beverages, and snacks. Some also offer readymade sandwiches and other prepared foods for immediate consumption along with an assortment of nonfood items, such as magazines. Most are also open longer hours than a typical supermarket.
Industry Organization

There are many more convenience stores than grocery stores, but they employ only a few workers per store. Many convenience stores are independently owned and are often franchises of convenience store chains.

Traditionally, grocery store chains have been based in a particular region of the country. Recently, however, many of these regional chains have been bought out by other chains, and although the names of the chains often remain the same, their administrative offices have been consolidated, resulting in fewer workers in management jobs.

Recent Developments

Over the last couple decades, grocery store supermarkets have been facing growing competition for the food dollar. More and more time-pressed people are eating out on a regular basis or buying takeout meals. Also, a greater variety of stores are selling groceries, with warehouse club stores and supercenters becoming some of the biggest food sellers. To compete with restaurants, fast food outlets, and club and supercenter stores, grocery stores have been selling more general merchandise items and providing a greater variety of services to cater to the one-stop shopper. They are also selling more prepared foods, deli items, and food to go. Some provide tables for eating in the store.

While some supermarkets have grown and added more floor space and more nonfood items, others have opened that sell more limited lines of groceries and often cater to particular groups of people. Ethnic grocery stores are some of the fastest-growing stores in the country. Also, there is an increase in the number of grocery stores that cater to upscale clientele and those that sell mostly organic foods. Providing specialized services and products unique to a particular neighborhood and its shoppers helps these grocers build loyalty and contribute to a sense of community among local residents.

Specialization is also occurring within the stores. Grocery store inventory tracking systems can now quickly let managers know what is selling in their store and what is not. This allows them to adjust their merchandise regularly and focus on the big sellers. They also do not need to keep as large an inventory of items in the store because cash registers linked to the inventory systems can automatically tell managers when something needs to be reordered. New scanning technology is also making it easier for stores to provide self-service checkout, although cashiers will always remain. Some stores have begun providing customers with hand-held bar code readers that they use to scan items when they place them in their cart and which automatically tallies their total spending as they add each item. As they compete for food sales, grocery stores are attempting to get better at offering items for sale that people want and become more efficient at providing them.



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