Supermarket Sweep

How is it that an entire industry could take something that people inherently love and turn it into something they barely tolerate?

That’s what’s been going on in the grocery industry for the past 50 years. People love to shop and yet don’t love to shop for groceries.

What’s to love? Most of the stores are messy, the help is surly and the selection is at once lacking, overwhelming and worst of all, predictable.

Looking in from the outside, grocery appears to be the craziest business on earth. Well, with the possible exception of the airline business … or maybe the magazine business.

Shoppers would love nothing more than to love to shop for groceries. And the thing is, it would not be all that difficult to make grocery stores more lovable. Better lighting. Faster checkouts. Clerks who smile.

It’s not as though grocers would have to blow themselves up or try to replicate Stew Leonard’s, Trader Joe’s or Wegman’s (although that would be nice).

In fact, their model could be as simple as that of Amelia’s Grocery Outlet. Amelia’s is a so-called “salvage grocer” that trades in goods that are either damaged, discontinued or past their sell-by dates.


Don’t laugh — Amelia’s same-store sales were up 12 percent last year, about twice the rate of Kroger. The reason isn’t just the low prices. What shoppers say they love about Amelia’s is that you just never know what you’re going to find there. When you get down to it, isn’t that what we love most about shopping?

So, surprise us. Pleasantly. Show us you understand who we are, what we want and what we need. We could learn to love grocery shopping yet.