Big changes are afoot in the American grocery store business. Amazon made headlines when it bought Whole Foods in 2017, a move that promised to make food shopping cheaper, easier, and more convenient for the masses. This sent shockwaves through the industry. For other sellers, big and small alike, the message was clear: keep pace or go home. According to a New York Times report, many smaller supermarkets are struggling to stay afloat in a post-Amazon world.
Amazon spent $13 billion last June to purchase Whole Foods, clearly signaling that it plans to overhaul the grocery market nationwide. Not to be outdone, Walmart announced in March that it’s planning to open an online grocery delivery service that will serve 100 U.S. cities. With the big corporations vying to muscle each other out of the marketplace, there’s almost no hope left for the little guys.
Industry analysts told the Times that since 2010, there’s been a clear trend. The number of supermarkets in the U.S. has increased, but the number of supermarket operators has declined.
“It’s not a level playing field,” said Abel Porter, chief executive of regional New York grocer Fairway, according to the Times. “Competing against Amazon is like competing against the government or a military commissary.”
Fairway has fallen on tough times, but by no means is this problem limited to them. Tops, another small regional chain on the East Coast, has also had to file for bankruptcy, and the parent company of Winn-Dixie and Bi-Lo says it is filing for Chapter 11 protection and closing 94 stores. Marsh Supermarkets in Indiana, likewise, has had to lay off over 1,500 workers.
All this turmoil in the grocery industry has had a major impact on the workforce. The Times also reported that membership in grocery employee union United Food and Commercial Workers has declined by over 9 percent since 2002, and that trend shows no signs of turning around.
Photo: A Fairway supermarket in New York City. Photo by Roman Tiraspolsky / Shutterstock.com