Has the supercenter format seen its day?

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — Meijer runs great stores and is a market leader in the areas its serves. Meijer customers love Meijer. But, numbers don't lie.

(THE NEWS: Meijer celebrates 50th anniversary of supercenter concept. For the full story, click here)

Trips to supercenters are down as consumers afraid to plunk down large sums of cash at once to do big pantry fill shopping trips are trading those trips for more quick trips, and those trips — at least, according to the numbers — are going to drug and dollar stores, and (to a lesser extent) club stores, where the people who aren't afraid to spend a lot at once are sure they are at least getting the sharpest value.

To underscore this point, SymphonyIRI Group released a report in the second half of 2011, which indicated that cross-channel shopping is alive and well. The report found that, across CPG channels, purchase frequency increased 2% during the past year, with grocery, dollar and club channel trends closely mirroring industry average. Across other channels, though, trends significantly vary. For example, frequency within the drug channel accelerated sharply within the last year, increasing by 6.7%. This growth is being driven by a number of factors, including shifting trip mission trends.

Quick trips, small “need-it-now” excursions with an average basket size of less than $40, have become more common as consumers look to minimize large one-time outlays of cash, reported SymphonyIRI SVP marketing John McIndoe.

Meanwhile, the big-box retailers are experimenting with smaller formats — including Meijer. Target, for example, has developed CityTarget and Walmart has several variations of smaller formats in play, ranging from its Walmart.com test sites in California — which showcase its online merchandise in small stores — to Walmart Express, which is a further downsizing of the supercenter and Neighborhood Market formats.

So, what do you think? Has the supercenter format seen its day? Do retailers need to think small? Post your comments below.

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