Rise of 'grocerants' serves up food for thought
Q: You've studied the sector for a long time, so what do you class as the best supermarket in the world?
A: The definition of the supermarket itself is probably now even a challenge. In America, you quite often hear about 'grocerants' -a kind of hybrid between supermarket and restaurant-style grocery shop - so even the very definition has become challenged.
High up on my list certainly is Danny Wegman and his Wegman supermarket chain in New Jersey, which has stood the test of time and has that magic component of theatre and a whole experience when you do your grocery shopping.
Draeger's in San Mateo in San Francisco is another one that sticks in my mind. This supermarket had its own glass-walled cookery school in the middle of the shop and a separate wine-tasting class where customers paid up to $100 for tutored wine tasting. They had an award-winning restaurant on the first floor and the shopping experience could be summarised as a mind-blowing experience with something different around every corner.
On a more practical level, Waitrose in the UK along with Monoprix in France offer a differentiated supermarket shopping experience.
On home territory, we have more than our fair share of iconic food shopping retailers with Donnybrook Fair, Avoca, Fallon & Byrne and many more providing a very different experience. In the more mainstream categories, some individual outlets within the Dunne's chain like Cornelscourt are at world-class level, as are many of SuperValu's newer model stores.
Pat Joyce of Joyce's supermarkets in the West of Ireland, and the Jephson family Ardkeen Store in Waterford are all operations to be proud of.
I have no doubt that this article will get me into lots of trouble with dozens of great retailers I have omitted, so I apologise and do forgive me!
Q: Is it important for retailers to call out when a product is produced in Ireland, or is it a case that the customer does not care where it comes from?
A: All of the research which is conducted across various different categories suggests that consumers have a preference for buying Irish goods.
That can vary by sector, and can even vary by product in a single sector. Within the foodservice sector the majority of chicken on menus is imported and the consumer seems to accept this, however when it comes to beef, there seems to be a strong demand from consumers to ensure that it is sourced in Ireland.
I view it a little bit like this - consumers will buy a product because of what the product stands for. If it was a gifting item, the design aspects, the craftsmanship, etc, might all be the first things to attract the consumer. The fact that it was made in Ireland might be a nice bonus for many consumers but not an essential requirement.
On the other hand, a tourist visiting from America, might have Irishness as their number one criterion to purchase a gift to take home for someone else. It's a complex area, but the overriding answer to your question is that regardless of what business you are in, calling out the Irish provenance will be important in the majority of cases.
I have seen some really great examples of Irish manufacturers telling their story on the product packaging itself, through their digital media campaigns and meeting and greeting their customers in store.
It is certainly worth exploring and putting some time into in the retail sector you are operating in.