Getting Back to Business

Private label growth, expanded use of technology among the hot topics for the year ahead.
Greg Sleter
Associate Publisher/Executive Editor
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Greg Sleter, Associate Publisher/Executive Editor, Store Brands
Greg Sleter, Executive Editor/Associate Publisher

Well, folks. We’re at it again. By the time you read this, we’ll be midway through February and thinking about the warmer temperatures of spring that are just around the corner.

The New Year has had a rapid start, and things are beginning to feel a bit more normal, although most would agree that “normal” has been dramatically redefined over the past three years. Part of the normalcy many of us are feeling is the ability to once again meet in person. At the recent FMI Midwinter Conference in Orlando, the grocery industry was out in force ready to do business and identify new ways to enhance operations, with the goal of meeting the continually evolving needs of their shoppers.

Most of the conversations I had with industry leaders at the conference were positive. Of the many things I learned in Central Florida, there were two topics that stood out:

(1) The continued growth of private label products. Inflation opened the eyes of many consumers to the financial benefits of store brand products. Their taste buds made them realize they can buy quality items that are less expensive. Retailers are now moving forward with plans to expand the presence of their store brands in current categories and launch them in new product segments. As issues related to supply chain and ingredient availability lessen, suppliers again have the capacity to seek out new business, which is good news for retailers looking to fill voids in their private label assortments.

(2) Technology will play a larger-than-ever role in how retailers manage their assortments and meet the needs of shoppers. During the FMI event, I had several conversations with tech folks who pitched their products, highlighting their features and benefits. Much of what they said made sense, but the challenge with anything new is making sure to have a round peg for a round hole.

Several tech professionals expressed frustration at the “slow” rate of adoption of new technology by some in the retail/grocery industry. While this may be true, it’s important for these conversations to continue.

Here’s a bit of advice: For those on the tech side, keep your messaging simple. At times, the jargon of technology can be confusing. Always keep in mind you’re talking to folks who are still trying to figure out all the features on their smartphones, myself included!

For those on the retail/grocery side, have an open mind. Institutional knowledge is a great asset, but that knowledge combined with the latest technological advances can make a business run more efficiently. Don’t get trapped in the “that’s how we have always done it” mindset.

Evolution is vital to future growth and meeting the needs of that next generation of consumers who will be tech savvy.

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