(Editors' note: This is part three of a five-part series.)
Since 2015, at least 10 grocery chains have filed for bankruptcy. If you’re a grocery executive, bankrupt banner names such as Marsh Supermarkets, Lucky’s Markets, Fairway Market and Earth Fare might be the kind of thing racing through your mind in the middle of the night.
But when Progressive Grocer asked food retailers that exact question early this year as part of its annual survey of grocers, respondents said that they’re not losing that much sleep over the state of the industry.
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[Editor’s note: Retailers were surveyed before the COVID-19 outbreak intensified in March.]
In fact, nearly half of grocery retailers in the United States are more bullish than last year about their prospects and the future of the food retail industry, with 46% of retailers surveyed saying they feel more optimistic than a year ago. That’s up slightly from last year, when 45% reported increased optimism. About 26% of retailers said this year that they’re less optimistic than last year, and 29% reported no change.
Even beyond just optimism, PG specifically asked grocers this year to list the biggest issues keeping them up at night. What was their No. 1 worry? It had nothing to do with defunct banners or bankruptcies. The biggest issue for grocers, by far, was once again labor, including recruitment, retention, diversity and training. It’s the third year in a row that talent issues have topped this list, after rising from second place in 2017 to first in 2018. About 73% of all respondents named talent as their No. 1 concern, evenly shared among larger and smaller operators.