The temperatures and leaves aren’t the only things changing this season. As summer fades into fall, grocers in different parts of the country are ramping up or scaling back their operations, depending on their location.
In the Midwest, food retailers in popular tourist areas are coming off a busy summer and returning to a quieter time in both traffic and inventory management. Meanwhile, in temperate areas of the country, such as Florida and Arizona, grocers are readying their stores for the arrival of “Snowbird” shoppers and vacationers.
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Bailey's General Store, an independent grocer in Sanibel, Fla., is one independent retailer that makes such adjustments. “Our business is extremely seasonal. This has been changing over the last decade from almost no customers during the early fall, when weather is pleasant up north, to larger number of year-round residential shoppers. We love our year-round residents, but we still depend on visitors shopping with us during our busy spring time season to ensure our business is successful,” reported Calli Johnson, fourth-generation co-owner.
In addition to planning for variations in traffic, grocers must also have a proper product mix for its different shoppers. For example, Michigan-based SpartanNash operates several stores in its Midwest footprint that serve the needs of residents as well as summertime boaters, cottage dwellers, cabin-goers and campers, reported Amy McClellan, the company’s chief marketing officer. As a distributor, SpartanNash also works with a variety of independent stores in such areas. “One of the key advantages of being both a distributor and retailer is that we are able to use data and analytics to determine which items are most important to different shoppers season by season,” she explained. “In the summer, there is a large influx of guests to our stores in tourist communities that are vital to the local economies, and these guests generally look for different items than those who are year-round residents. We plan to maintain the essentials to support the needs of permanent residents, but also strategically stock up on popular summer items to support a larger community of vacationers.”
Accordingly, store shelves reflect that balanced strategy. “During the spring, we are focused on providing our customers with items they would need for their visit as well as what residents might need for their guests. Then, when summer comes around we work hard to provide value to our visitors from closer places that are enjoying summertime activities like grilling and beach supplies. While our product availability changes, we always focus on top-notch service and staff that makes you feel like part of our family,” noted Johnson.
Likewise, but on a different seasonal rotation, SpartanNash mixes up offerings. “Each year, our merchandising team ensures there is an emphasis on seasonal items for both our independent grocery customers and our corporate-owned stores. As the summer lake-life season comes to an end, our team begins to work months in advance to forecast for the next season of summer activities so that we are prepared to support future seasonal summer selling,” McClellan shared.
The labor shortages that have gripped much of the nation this past year are also keenly felt by grocers in towns that have smaller populations in the off season. “With the addition of many national firms to our county and exponential growth, we are finding that many of the traditional areas where our staff drove from now have job opportunities closer to home. While our exponential growth is exciting, we find that many of the people moving to our area are not looking for the types of jobs we offer,” said Johnson.