New report offers advice on shaping the grocery store of the future

The 'Evolution of the Physical Store' from IGD highlights potential areas for growth

While the digital world continues to rapidly expand and online shopping experiences get better and better, consumers will still want physical grocery stores—so long as they look and operate differently than today.

That’s a key theme in a just-released report by Britain’s Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD), which offers trends analysis, training and education for the food and grocery industry. Titled The Evolution of the Physical Store, it offers suggestions for how grocery companies can make changes now to keep the modern consumer coming to their stores in the future.

e believe there will always be a place for bricks and mortar stores in grocery retailing, as physical stores will always be best placed to deliver instant gratification, impulse purchases and customer service,” said Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of IGD, in a release. “So, we expect the store of the future to merge the physical and digital worlds, to create a much more absorbing experience featuring fresh food, new products, unique events and more ways to taste, learn and discover.”

Produced by the IGD for the Consumer Goods Forum, the 24-page report suggests ways grocery retailers can update their bricks-and-mortar consumer experience and offers a 10-point checklist of steps they can take to prepare today for a much more digital tomorrow.

Some of the projections for the future of retail may not seem new. The report suggests as technology enables grocery retailers to provide shoppers with some products through subscription models and instant reordering, those products will need less shelf space. Stores will be smaller because they’ll carry less stock and online retailing will mean more price transparency and fewer promotions.

However, the report’s authors also consider some of the wider ranging implications of those trends.

Invest in staff, is one example. The inevitable growth of in-store robotics and technology will free up staff to focus on value-added services. But, grocery retailers will need to invest in staff to ensure they are actually adding value to the consumer experience. They’ll need to be better informed to match the information available online, they’ll need to offer “inspiring and exciting answers,” to customers, says the report. “Employees should be able to add creativity, empathy and passion to the answers they give shoppers, so they are set apart from more mechanical solutions.”

A speedy experience at checkout is also important, according to the report, which suggests removing them altogether to afford employees more time with consumers and to free up space for new in-store features or fixtures.

Reconsider stores’ ranges, is another suggestion. As shoppers make more of their regular purchases online, stores’ product offerings will need to be more unique, flexible and relevant to keep customers coming through the door. Supply chains will have to be updated to ensure products are rotated more often and to reflect seasonal trends, and more local options will have to be offered.

“Supporting small and medium-sized producers is positively perceived by shoppers, helps them sustain their community and allows them to feel special as they have something unique.”

Though the IGD is based in Britain, it’s scope and research is global. The report singled out Sobeys for its progressive approach to serving ethnic shoppers with its Chalo FreshCo banner, which caters to the South Asian community at two Brampton, Ont. locations. IGD commended Sobeys for the research it did in South Asia to better understand its target consumer and the adoption of design cues from grocery stores in South Asia.

“Already we are seeing stores experiment in many ways to enhance the experience for shoppers, concentrating on visual appeal, product freshness, provenance and health—but there’s more to be done,” said report author John Wright, in the release.

“Clearly, there are risks in building the foundations for the store of the future, yet given how firmly we believe the physical store has a role to play in grocery, the risks of not investing could be even higher. Retailers and suppliers must work collaboratively to prepare and build for the future—now.”

The full report is available for free at



This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds