Whatever happened to the center portion of supermarkets?

You remember those center aisles - canned veggies, ketchup, laundry detergent, soup, coffee. All the boring stuff. The black-and-white stuff. Well, it's all still there, but the real action these days is on the perimeters of supermarkets. That's where you find the deli and fish counters, the bakery, the cheese cases, and all the fruits and vegetables. That's creating some concern among the middle-of-the-store crowd. From the NYT:

Analysts have been surprised by the volume of sales declines over the last two quarters. Heinz reported a drop of 2.4 percent in its second quarter. Kraft unit sales were down 2.8 percent in its first quarter, and at Kellogg, its North American volumes were down 1.7 percent in its second quarter. With center store sales down, the most forward-looking supermarkets are rethinking the allocation of space -- shrinking the staid center and expanding the sexy perimeter. In the Eaton Cub, for example, the produce, bakery, deli, meat, seafood and other perimeter areas occupy roughly 40 percent of the store, Ms. Lessard said, compared to 20 to 25 percent of Supervalu stores that have yet to be remodeled. "There's been some stagnation in center-of-the-store sales," said Jeffrey M. Ettinger, chief executive of Hormel. "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."

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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