EAGAN, Minn. - The center aisles have long been where supermarkets showcased their sales, but now the perimeters are getting their due, the New York Times reports. "You can pretty much be in Anywhere, U.S.A., in center store, but the perimeter is the fashion side of the grocery business," said Sharon A. Lessard, chief designer at Supervalu, which operates Albertsons, Cub Foods, Jewel-Osco and Shaw€™s. "The perimeter is where we can best distinguish ourselves from everyone else."
With eating habits shifting to fresh, shopping patterns have followed suit, eschewing the shelf-stable products hogging the store€™s center. Those changes have triggered a drop in sales for many of the big center-store manufacturers, including Heinz, Kellogg and Kraft.
Supermarkets are starting to change the way they merchandise the perimeter, rethinking its bakery, deli, produce, meat and seafood areas. For example, some Cub Foods have enlarged the outer aisles to about 40% of the store, up from 20% to 25% in some Supervalu locations, said Lessard.
"There€™s been some stagnation in center-of-the-store sales," said Jeffrey M. Ettinger, chief executive of Hormel Foods. "Frankly, I think those of us who sell products there have been a little slow to innovate, and in the meantime, sales around the store perimeter have been strong."
With younger consumers and Baby Boomers seeking more healthy and fresh foods, these manufacturers and retailers both see the perimeter as becoming more important. "There are other trends going on that are driving the changes you€™re seeing," said Ian Friendly, executive vice president of U.S. retail at General Mills. "It used to be that people got their food pretty exclusively at traditional grocery stores, but there has been a pretty important migration to club stores, supercenters, drugstores, convenience stores and dollar stores, where sales have been growing much faster."