Shopping carts photographed through a window

Mega, Hyper, Mini.

09. July 2016, Editorial

Some stores are mutating into shopping complexes while others are returning to their core business. An inventory in all sizes.



There was a time when all stores had to be super. Then came mega. And now: Let’s stop at hypermarket. Thousands of square metres of selling area, uncountable items for sale. Grocery shopping now feels the way a day-long marathon through a shopping centre used to feel like. Shelf after shelf after shelf of always changing new product worlds. Basically, it can’t get any bigger. In fact, it’s not possible – for retailers or for customers. So it’s no surprise that we are gradually moving in the opposite direction. If the only direction has been up, sooner or later it has to go down. In this case, without a negative connotation. Because retailers are – in part – focussing again on their strengths. Less is more. We customers are overwhelmed by too many possibilities and options, and we’re gladly welcoming some direction. Back in the form of small shops, mini-markets. Or concept stores that lead us through a curated lifestyle so that we don’t get lost and just buy anything.

Selling and warehousing surfaces cost a lot. That’s why large chains are reducing their inventory.

Whoever enters a store in the year 2016 has usually done online research and wants to see, touch and try out, or on, the real product. What customers don’t want: To have to search too long for their favourite part. A reduced selection looks tidier and allows for a better overview. And: Sales and warehouse surfaces cost a lot of money. Whoever can downsize saves money. The large companies are setting an example: The home improvement company Home Depot was known for metre high stacks of merchandise along even longer shelves. Now it is focussed on fewer displayed products that are at customer eye level. Target and Walmart also only put as much on their shelves as they can actually sell. “It’s about meeting the demand and not about some forecast of how much they will need to have”, says Brian Gibson, who is logistics professor at Auburn University. Obviously, hypermarkets still have their attraction and will continue to do so. Because a not insignificant portion of society likes to have all possibilities before them – without changing locations. Many super/mega/hypermarkets are especially good for things like the classic ‘weekend shopping’. But there is also a demographic development which says: become smaller and more flexible. Today, more people live in single households, professionals also have less time, and, in addition, healthy cooking and eating happens to be in at the moment. All of this results in small markets popping up or large chains opening small stores that are then labelled ‘mini’, ‘express’ or ‘to go’. After work, as a one-man household, I like to quickly pick up fresh (!) ingredients because there’s no sense in me buying a lot ahead.

Whoever wants to buy products from Glossier ends up on a waiting list. Number 10,000.

The ideal behind manageable product volumes, the eternal question of actual need, and the new desire for homey businesses not much larger than a lounge, is – there’s no denying – to sell. To sell a lot. (To earn a lot.) Ideally, to become so sought after that I don’t even have to think about what was just described above. In short: To be like Emily Weiss, CEO of Glossier. Founded in 2014, the beauty brand has already achieved cult status. There is only a limited number of any of the products and the waiting lists in some cases have 10,000 names on them. Weiss is especially successful because she positioned her brand very cleverly (“beauty should be fun, easy, imperfect, and personal”) and has constant contact with her customers. She builds relationships – completely without megastores, gigantic marketing campaigns, and huge product volumes. Because there’s one thing you can’t forget: Today, small surfaces are really enough for selling things. 1280 x 1024 pixel.

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