The once behind-the-times grocery segment is stagnant no more. In fact, the grocery industry has gone all-in on the digital transformation and is developing and deploying some of the industry’s most innovative technologies designed to not only streamline enterprise operations but also further the customer experience and build life-long loyalty.
To uncover which grocers are thriving in this new digital reality and which are struggling to keep up RIS’ sister publication Progressive Grocer published its annual Top 50 Grocers report. The report ranked leading grocers across four critical categories that explored financial metrics, store count, employee count, and the power of their banners.
The entire ranking as well as an in-depth look at the report’s methodology is available here. Below is a quick look at the five grocers that claimed the top five positions ― interestingly these are the same grocers that finished in the top five last year.
Progressive Grocer reports that the world’s biggest retailer is also its biggest grocer, raking in nearly $160 billion in grocery sales annually. Not only is the retail megalith selling groceries at more than 4,000 physical locations, it is also testing numerous digital shopping and fulfillment options. The retailer tested grocery ATMs last year, which allowed customers to retrieve their digital orders via an automated kiosk in the parking lot, and last fall it began a delivery pilot where associates not only deliver fresh groceries but also bring them inside a customer’s home and place them in their fridge.
Kroger has been ahead of the times for years embracing the power of customer analytics long before it became operational table stakes. The mega-grocer head start in this vital capacity has helped it grow annual sales to nearly $80 billion across its flagship Kroger, Harris Tweeter and Ralphs banners. Kroger continues to invest in technology both in-store and out to redefine the customer experience. It recently announced plans to add cashier-less technology to 400 of its nearly 3,000 stores by the end of 2018.
Over the past year, Albertsons has been investing heavily to not only enhance its offerings, but to significantly increase the size and scope of the company. In an example of its commitment to customer-facing technology, late last year the grocer announced plans to add Apple Pay across the chain to give its customers another payment option. Also late last year it acquired meal kit service Plated to compete with both the online meal-kit providers and the growing ranks of brick-and-mortar grocers that have announced similar services. In the biggest move of all in early 2018, the grocery announced it is merging with struggling retail pharmacy chain Rite Aid ― the deal is expected to close the second half of the year.
The international grocer held steady in fourth place this year, matching its 2017 finish in Progressive Grocer’s annual ranking. Its top banners including Food Lion, Stop & Shop and Hannaford helped the retailer top the $46 billion revenue mark last year. Ahold has made the transition from a traditional brick and mortar grocer to a digital-focused, technology-driven enterprise. The grocer continue to invest in and develop cutting-edge technology including artificial intelligence, price optimization and robotics to improve both internal operations and the customer experience.
Publix Super Markets
The employee-owned grocery chain with over 1,100 locations throughout the Southeastern United States increased its revenue to more than $28 billion in 2017. It kept the stellar financial performance going in 2018, reporting a 6.8% year-over-year increase in sales in the first quarter of this year. The massive players in the space like Walmart are luring customers with low prices that many in the industry can’t match without cutting their margins to the bone. Publix, on the other hand, while still price conscious, is focused on providing its shoppers with a memorable and enjoyable shopping experience that caters to their specific wants and needs.