The Moribund Center Aisle Has Moved...Out of the Store
There has been a great deal of renting of garments and gnashing of teeth during the past decade or so about the demise of the center aisle of grocery. Conventional wisdom documents the migration of excitement to the peripheries, e.g. fresh everything from produce to dairy to baked goods. It makes sense, of course. Frozen and packaged foods, hmmm, not so much. Theirs are the areas that have been commodized: Cereal, mac and cheese, ketchup, crackers, packaged cookies. So sad.
Perhaps the center aisles of the grocery stores have just moved?
It turns out, they’ve been relocated to the periphery of (wait for it) chain drug and convenience stores.
I was in a CVS this weekend which had been re-imagined to welcome me at the entrance with what looked for anything like the center aisles of a conventional supermarket – with one major exception: Prices. Later one in the week I went to a Duane Reade: Same deal, new planogram.
The new traffic pattern starts customers down the entry aisle chock-a-block with packaged foods and not just chips, salsa and beer. It was all there: Pastas and sauces, all the classic Post cereals and well beyond, Betty Crocker cake and brownie mixes in a radical profusion of flavors. All the usual grocery suspects from Hershey’s and Mars to Nabisco, Campbell’s and Kellogg’s to Purina. It required traversing four long and packed product corridors before there was an aspirin in sight. These were full-sized products, too, not smaller snack packs for spontaneous consumption. The real deals.
Hypothesis: Perhaps it’s not (just) about the inevitable dominance of a juggernaut of fresh, organic, gluten free and bespoke micro-brands as much as it is about just a simple concept called convenience. Big grocery has gotten so big that it’s just too much of an Odyssey to venture in for cereal, snack crackers and spaghetti. So, big drug has picked up the slack. Discuss.