Friday, 10. January 2020

How food retailers sell today – Three trends at a glance

Online business has been booming for years. Amazon and Co. have conquered the market. The stationary trade suffers from the success of the competition and is in danger of becoming a victim of the digital change. Food can now also be bought at Amazon. At first, food retailers did not see any danger in this, because buying food online – that seemed strange to Germans for a long time.

But the trend is changing: a study commissioned by the Federal Association of the Digital Economy has found that 33 percent of Germans have already bought food online and could imagine doing this again. The advantages of online ordering are time independence for shopping, no carrying of the purchases and time savings.

It seems that the online giants are also becoming a problem for the food retail industry. But they will not give up without a fight. There are a number of trends with which the markets want to retain customers and win new ones. I will present three of the current trends.

Laundry service in the supermarket

Shopping and taking laundry to the cleaners – two everyday to-dos that everyone knows. Especially after a long day at work, the walking distances to the various shops can be a nuisance. And stressful at the same time, when the cleaning service closes again at 6 or 7 pm.

So why not combine food shopping with a trip to the textile laundry to save walking distances? This was the idea of the Rewe Group and in July 2019 it entered into a cooperation with the Cologne start-up “Wasch Mal“. Customers were able to book a laundry service online or via app in three test stores. They then dropped off their dirty laundry at the cash desk or at specially set up stations at Rewe stores. There they could later pick up freshly washed and ironed clothes again.

The concept seemed to work: According to Waschmal managing director Stefan Brüssemaker, 23 stores were added between October and December 2019. And now 30 more stores will follow. According to Brüssemaker, the biggest advantages are that detours are eliminated and that customers benefit from the long opening hours of the stores. Besides Rewe, the drugstore operator dm also offers a laundry service. It cooperates with the Henkel subsidiary Persil Service.

Customer as cashier 

Long queues at the cash desk annoy the customers. They lose a lot of time by waiting. In addition, they have to move the goods from their shopping cart to the conveyor belt and back again. At the Globus supermarket chain this has been over for some time now. By the end of 2018, the company has already equipped 30 stores with a new payment system: Scan & Go.

In the entrance area, Globus customers hold their customer cards under a reader and then they can take a scanner from a partition wall. The scanner is attached to the shopping cart by a holder. Now the customer scans each item he takes from the shelf before placing it in the shopping cart. At the end, payment is made at a checkout station. The purchases do not have to be unpacked again at a cash desk.

At the end of 2018, David Massing, Project Manager Scan & Go at Globus, told the Handelsblatt: “We already have over 165,000 customers who have registered and are using it”. Sales have increased by 30 percent in the markets where Scan & Go is used.

Amazon also relies on a system without cash desks. In the United States, the first cashless supermarkets Amazon Go opened several years ago. In Germany, retailers like Real are experimenting with self-scanning. However, customers have to scan every single piece at the cash desk themselves and take it out of the shopping cart again. Is this still a way to save time? Perhaps the fact that these self-service checkouts have still not really made their way into the market answers this question.


The Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo is pursuing a completely opposite strategy. Recently, it introduced a talk-cash-desk at its store in Vlijmen, where employees take extra time to talk to their customers.

The background of this idea is less beautiful: More and more people, especially seniors, live alone and have only a few with who they can talk. A visit to the supermarket now becomes the solution to loneliness. “We want shopping to be fun,” Dick de Fjiter, branch manager of Jumbo Vlijmen, told the Gerneral Anzeiger Bonn. That means: Instead of hectic and stress, relaxed shopping with conversations.

In addition, the supermarket chain is cooperating with a foundation and has introduced a coffee meeting. Here, volunteers meet with older people for discussions. They also help the seniors with shopping or household chores.

The background to this trend: the supermarket is becoming a feel-good atmosphere. A place where people enjoy spending time. For some, shopping is even becoming an experience. And this is something that puts stationary retail ahead of online retail. So it’s no wonder that many supermarkets try to play this ace up their sleeve.

And where does the staff find the time?  

At the same time, however, allowing customers to shop in a relaxed manner is an additional time expense for the staff. Supermarkets must therefore save time elsewhere if they want to spend more capacity on their customers. An often underestimated possibility to save time is warehouse logistics. Many of them dispose of waste at great expense, even though more efficient solutions have long been available on the market. If, for example, you use an automatic baler into which cardboard boxes no longer have to be inserted by hand, you can save hours in the year around 2016. This gives you enough time to implement trends such as the talk-cash-desk in your market.

Strautmann Umwelttechnik GmbH