A new report in Winsight Grocery Business this week has cast a speculative light on how physical grocery stores—the essential brick-and-mortar retail segment that has shown real resilience amid the covid pandemic—might evolve in the post-covid real estate economy.
The piece quotes New York architect David Katz, who is predicting a “bifurcation” in how physical grocery square footage is allocated in favor of areas on the building perimeter—traditionally the produce and freezer aisles—while products typically consigned to the center aisles shift to microfulfillment centers.
Winsight noted that grocers have historically struggled to operate delivery services profitably, particularly for refrigerated items and fresh produce with limited shelf-life. But non-perishable, shelf-stable items don’t face those same storage constraints and could benefit from accelerated demand for delivery technology. This, in turn, would free up valuable in-store space for grocers (and, presumably, continue to juice the market’s insatiable thirst for warehouse and logistics real estate).
Hell is other shoppers
There are also changing social dynamics at play. One-way aisles, mask mandates, adjusted hours, and per-customer purchase limits instituted by many grocers early in the pandemic may have exposed some of the fault lines of the physical shopping experience.
A study by the marketing firm C+R Research and reported in Food Navigator USA revealed 19 percent of respondents in a random sample of 2,000 American shoppers had witnessed a verbal argument in a grocery store, while 11 percent had witnessed a physical altercation in a grocery store since the onset of covid.