Supermarkets are wizards at getting us to buy more than we intend. They’ve figured out how to successfully sell diapers to beer customers and pine nuts to budget shoppers. But I still wonder how they get us to cross that line from perishables to pillows or from sofas to cereal.
Kroger, the nation’s largest traditional supermarket chain, may prove how it is done as it further expands its Marketplace chain. Much as Target and Walmart have extended their concepts to include full-blown grocery stores, Marketplace combines Kroger’s existing full-line grocery selection with mass merchandise. The stores carry couches, lamps, bedding, pictures frames – just about everything but apparel – right next to the supermarket.
So now they all have everything, right? Not exactly. The key difference between what Kroger is offering and what Walmart and Target are offering lies in the minds of consumers, or at least that is my hunch. When I go to Target it is usually for non-essentials – clothing, cosmetics, napkins. Switching gears to purchase an essential item on my way to the register – such as cereal – is easy and convenient. I am busy.
But at the Kroger I occasionally visit, most of the mass merchandise is off to one end of the store, and that space separating food from non-food might as well be a mile wide. Crossing it means grinding my gears, because I came there for essentials – many of which are perishable. I just can’t seem to shift my mindset from frozen spinach to lawn chairs, and from chores to recreation.
Maybe that’s just me, but I have noticed one area where Kroger has succeeded in getting me to make that critical transition: with kitchen items. This is because it has had the insight to embed its kitchen merchandise – pots, colanders, dishes, etc. –between its produce and non-perishables. I have to pass right by it to get to the macaroni and peanut butter. And guess what? More than once I remembered I needed to replace a broken salad bowl, or buy an extra baking sheet. Done and done.
Of course, these items do not exactly represent “fun” shopping for me. They’re not shoes or decorative items. But it is a start. Maybe next Kroger can stack a few down comforters next to the Downy.
And at the end of the aisle, it can’t hurt to throw in a beer display.
Lisa leads the creation of editorials and feature stories for COLLOQUY and oversees the work of contributing editors and writers. With 18 years of reporting experience, most in business and specifically consumer behavior, she is highly skilled at researching data and teasing out the trends. A background in graphic design enables her to see ideas in three dimensions and tell the story visually.