A grocery store or grocer's shop is a retail shop that primarily sells food, either fresh or preserved. Large grocery stores stock significant amounts of non-food products, such as clothing and household items, blurring the line between grocery stores and .
In Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and are sometimes described as grocery businesses, groceries or simply grocers.
[For example, the largest trade paper for UK supermarkets and convenience shops is called The Grocer] Small grocery stores that mainly sell fruits and vegetables are known as (Britain) or produce markets (U.S.), and small grocery stores that predominantly sell prepared food, such as candy and snacks, are known as convenience shops or .
Some groceries specialize in the foods of a certain nationality or culture, such as Chinese culture, Italian culture, , or Polish culture. These stores are known as ethnic markets and may also serve as gathering places for immigrants.
Beginning as early as the 14th century, a grocer (or "purveyor") was a dealer in comestible dry goods
such as spices
, Bell pepper
, and (later) Cocoa solids
, and coffee
. Because these items were often bought in bulk, they were named after the French word for wholesaler, or "grossier". This, in turn, is derived from the Medieval Latin term "grossarius",
from which the term "gross" (meaning a quantity of 12 dozen, or 144) is also derived.
As increasing numbers of staple food-stuffs became available in Canning and other less-perishable packaging, the trade expanded its province. Today, grocers deal in a wide range of staple food-stuffs including such perishables as , , and produce. Such goods are, hence, called groceries.
Many rural areas still contain general stores that sell goods ranging from tobacco products to imported napkins. Traditionally, general stores have offered credit to their customers, a system of payment that works on trust rather than modern . This allowed farm families to buy staples until their harvest could be sold.
The first self-service
grocery store, Piggly Wiggly
, was opened in 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee, by Clarence Saunders, an inventor and entrepreneur.
Prior to this innovation, grocery stores operated "over the counter," with customers asking a grocer to retrieve items from inventory. Saunders' invention allowed a much smaller number of clerks to service the customers, proving successful (according to a 1929 issue of Time
) "partly because of its novelty, partly because neat packages and large advertising appropriations have made retail grocery selling almost an automatic procedure."
The early supermarkets began as Chain store of grocer's shops. The development of supermarkets and other large grocery stores has meant that smaller grocery stores often must create a niche market by selling unique, premium quality, or ethnic foods that are not easily found in supermarkets. A small grocery store may also compete by locating in a mixed commercial-residential area close to, and convenient for, its customers. Organic foods are also becoming a more popular niche market for the smaller stores.
Grocery stores operate in many different styles ranging from rural family-owned operations, such as IGAs, to boutique chains, such as Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's, to larger supermarket chain stores such as Walmart and Kroger Marketplace. In some places, , or "co-op" markets, owned by their own shoppers, have been popular. However, there has recently been a trend towards larger stores serving larger geographic areas. Very large "all-in-one" such as Walmart, Target, and Meijer have recently forced consolidation of the grocery businesses in some areas, and the entry of such as Dollar General into rural areas has undercut many traditional grocery stores. The global buying power of such very efficient companies has put an increased financial burden on traditional local grocery stores as well as the national supermarket chains, and many have been caught up in the retail apocalypse of the 2010s.
However, many European cities (Rome, for example) are already so dense in population and buildings, large supermarkets, in the American sense, may not replace the neighbourhood grocer's shop. However, "Metro" shops have been appearing in town and city centres in many countries, leading to the decline of independent smaller shops. Large out-of-town and , such as Tesco and Sainsbury's in the United Kingdom, have been steadily weakening trade from smaller shops. Many grocery chains like Spar or Mace are taking over the regular family business model.
Larger grocer complexes that include other facilities, such as
, is especially common in the United Kingdom
, where major chains such as Sainsbury's and Tesco
have many locations operating under this format. Traditional shops throughout Europe
have been preserved because of their history and their classic appearance. They are sometimes still found in rural areas, although they are rapidly disappearing.
Grocery stores in South America
have been growing fast since the early 1980s. A large percentage of food sales and other articles take place in grocery stores today. Some examples are the
(Jumbo and Santa Isabel covering Chile
), Walmart Chile
(Lider and Ekono
) as well as Falabella (Tottus
in Chile and Peru and Supermercados San Francisco in Chile). These three chains are subsidiaries of large retail companies which also have other kinds of business units, such as department stores and home improvement outlets. All three also operate their own credit cards, which are a key driver for sales, and they also sell insurance and operate travel agencies. These companies also run some malls in countries such as Argentina, Chile, Peru and Colombia.
Two other chains started in 2008: Unimarc, which bought several small local chains and has over 20% of the grocery segment in Chile; and Southern Cross, a Chilean Investment Fund that has around 8.6% of the supermarket segment, mainly oriented to the southern areas of the country. In Puerto Rico, popular grocery stores include Pueblo Supermarkets and Amigo.
In some countries such as the United States, grocery stores descended from
, which sold not only food but clothing, furniture, household items, tools, and other miscellaneous merchandise. These trading posts evolved into larger retail businesses known as
. These facilities generally dealt only in "dry" goods such as baking soda
, canned foods, dry beans, and flour. Perishable foods were obtained from specialty markets, such as fresh meat or sausages from a butcher
and milk from a local dairy
, while eggs and vegetables were either produced by families themselves, bartered for with neighbors, or purchased at a farmers' market or a local greengrocer
In the US, there are many larger , but there are also many small chains and independent grocery stores. About 11% of groceries is sold by a grocery store that is either independent or in a chain of just one, two, or three stores, making the independent stores, taken collectively, bigger than the biggest chains.
Most food in the US is bought at traditional brick-and-mortar grocery stores.
As of 2019, about 3% of food was bought from an online retailer such as Amazon.com.
The economic trends affecting grocery stores include:
In every decade since the 1960s, Americans have spent an increasing share of their money on eating at restaurants, which reduces their need to buy groceries.
Groceries are sold by many other stores, such as convenience stores, drug stores, and dollar stores.
The result of retail channel blurring is that even when people are buying groceries, only about half of them are buying groceries from a grocery store.
Online sales of food are small but increasing. People who buy groceries from an internet retailer or a meal kit company have less need to buy groceries from a grocery store.
People want to buy foods that reflect local and regional specialties. Sales of national brands, such as Nabisco cookies and crackers, have declined, and the companies have responded by changing their marketing approach. The reduction in advertising has resulted in fewer sales at the grocery store.
Grocery stores can be small or large physical stores, or electronic (online) stores.
A convenience shop is a small store that stocks a range of everyday items such as groceries, snack foods, candy, toiletries, soft drinks, tobacco products, and newspapers. They differ from
and village shops in that they are not in a rural location and are used as a convenient supplement to larger shops.
Although larger, newer convenience stores may have quite a broad range of items, the selection is still limited compared to supermarkets, and, in many stores, only 1 or 2 choices are available. Convenience stores usually charge significantly higher prices than ordinary grocery stores or , which they make up for with convenience by serving more locations and having shorter cashier lines.
[ Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation, Amy Brown, , 2013] Many convenience stores offer food ready to eat, such as breakfast sandwiches and other breakfast food.
store is a type of food store where fine foods are sold. In this sense, the name is often abbreviated to deli
The term delicatessen
" or "fine foods". In English language
, "delicatessen" originally meant only this specially prepared food.
is a retail
trader in fruit
; that is, in groceries that are mostly green in color.
Michael Driscoll (2003
, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers.
. ISBN 9781579122829
Greengrocer is primarily a United Kingdom
term, and greengrocers' shops were once common in cities, towns and villages.
File:Miscelanea en Xalatlaco.jpg|A miscelanea, a type of family-run convenience store in Mexico
File:Da-Lat-market.jpg|A green grocer in Vietnam
Health food store
A health food store is a type of grocery store that primarily sells
, local produce
, and often nutritional supplements. Health food stores typically offer a wider or more specialized selection of foods than conventional grocery stores for their customers, such as people with special dietary needs.
Health food stores became much more common in the 1960s in connection to the newly emerging ecology movement and counterculture.
and New Zealand
, a milk bar
is a suburban
local general store
or café. Similar terms include
or "delis", and
. The first businesses using the name "milk bar" was started in India in 1930. By the late 1940s, milk bars had evolved to include not only groceries, but also became places where young people could buy ready-made food, non-alcoholic drinks and could socialise.
, a large form of the traditional grocery store, is a self-service
shop offering a wide variety of food
and household products organized into aisles. The supermarket typically comprises meat
, fresh produce
, and baked goods aisles, along with shelf space reserved for canned and packaged goods as well as for various non-food items such as kitchenware, household cleaners, pharmacy products and pet
Other services offered at some supermarkets may include those of , Coffeehouses, Day care, photo processing, , pharmacies and/or .
is a big-box store
combining a supermarket
and a department store
. The result is an expansive retailing
facility carrying a wide range of products under one roof, including a full groceries line and general merchandise. Another category of stores sometimes included in the hypermarket category is the membership-based wholesale
that are popular in North America
An online grocer
is a recent phenomenon that has developed as a type of e-commerce
Several online grocery stores exist, one of the oldest available in the U.S. being Peapod
Nowadays, many online grocery stores such as Amazon, Netgrocer, MyBrands, Efooddepot and many more that all aims to provide quality ethnic food products with timely delivery and convenience of ordering online.
Other large retailers in the U.S. have started similar models, including AmazonFresh
and Prime Pantry, both run by Amazon.com, Walmart
's To-Go service, and smaller companies like Yummy.com and RelayFoods.
In the U.S., sales from online grocers in 2013 were $15 billion.
Online grocery stores are more popular in Europe, where sales from 2012 in Britain alone were €7.1 billion, and in certain markets are projected to double from 2012 to 2016.
brings together the producer and the consumer. It is the chain of activities that brings food from "farm gate to plate".
[Wansink, Marketing Nutrition, 501–3.]
The marketing of even a single food product can be a complicated process involving many producers and companies. For example, 56 companies are involved in making one can of chicken noodle soup.
These businesses include not only chicken and vegetable processors, but also the companies that transport the ingredients and those who print labels and manufacture cans.
The food marketing system is the largest direct and indirect non-government employer in the United States.
In the pre-modern era, the sale of surplus food took place once a week when farmers took their wares on market day into the local village marketplace. Here food was sold to for sale in their local shops for purchase by local consumers.
[Mead, 11–19.] [Jango-Cohen] With the onset of industrialization and the development of the food processing industry, a wider range of food could be sold and distributed in distant locations. Typically, early grocery shops would be counter-based where purchasers told the shop-keeper what they wanted and the shop-keeper would get it for them. [Benson]
In the 20th century, were born. Supermarkets brought with them a self service approach to shopping using , and were able to offer quality food at lower cost through economies of scale and reduced staffing costs. In the latter part of the 20th century, this has been further revolutionized by the development of vast warehouse-sized, out-of-town supermarkets, selling a wide range of food from around the world.
Unlike food processors, food retailing is a two-tier market in which a small number of very large Corporation control a large proportion of supermarkets. The supermarket giants wield great purchasing power over farmers and processors, and strong influence over consumers. Less than 10% of consumer spending on food goes to farmers, with larger percentages going to advertising, transportation, and intermediate corporations.
[Magdoff, Fred (Ed.) "The farmer's share of the food dollar (after paying for input costs) has steadily declined from about 40 percent in 1910 to less than 10 percent in 1990."]
It was reported on March 24, 2008, that consumers worldwide faced rising food prices.
["Food prices rising across the world", CNN. 24 March 2008]
Reasons for this development include changes in the weather and dramatic changes in the global economy
, lower food reserves, and growing consumer demand in China
The US Labor Department has calculated that food purchased at home and in restaurants is 13% of household purchases, behind 32% for housing and 18% for transportation. The average US family spent $280 per month or $3,305 per year at grocery stores in 2004. The newsletter Dollar Stretcher survey estimated $149 a month for a single person, $257 for a couple and $396 for a family of four.
As of 2011, 1.3 billion tons of food, about one third of the global food production, are lost or wasted annually. The USDA
estimates that 27% of food is lost annually.
In developing and developed countries which operate either commercial or industrial agriculture
, food waste can occur at most stages of the food industry
and in significant amounts.
[Kantor, p. 3.]
Food packaging protects food from damage during its transportation from farms and factories via warehouses to retailing, as well as preserving its freshness upon arrival.
Although it avoids considerable food waste, packaging can compromise efforts to reduce food waste in other ways, such as by contaminating waste that could be used for animal feedstocks.
Retail stores can throw away large quantities of food. Usually, this consists of items that have reached either their Shelf life Food that passed the best before, and sell-by date, and even some food that passed the use-by date is still edible at the time of disposal, but stores have widely varying policies to handle the excess food. Some stores put effort into preventing access to poor or homeless people while others work with charitable organizations to distribute food.
Retailers also contribute to waste as a result of their contractual arrangements with suppliers. Failure to supply agreed quantities renders farmers or processors liable to have their contracts cancelled. As a consequence, they plan to produce more than actually required to meet the contract, to have a margin of error. Surplus production is often simply disposed of.
[*] Some grocery stores donate leftover food (for example, Delicatessen and bread past their expiration date) to homeless shelters or charity kitchens.
The European Union claimed 2014 to be "Year Against Food Waste".
The contracts that most retailers had signed required that food would be of a certain quality. With this recent socio-political change, food such as non-round tomatoes and apples with blemishes had a new market. Intermarche a France's third largest supermarket launched it's "inglorious fruits and vegetables" campaign in order to reduce waste. This, fruits and vegetables, waste reduction strategy has shown great promise towards this EU proposed campaign. These products are sold at reduced price compared to the perfectionist campaign showing a 24% increase in sales. Fruta Feia a Portuguese retailer ran a similar business strategy with comparable success.
Clarence Saunders (grocer)
Sir John Cohen
Horatio G. Loomis, one of the organizers of the Chicago Board of Trade
Hugh Mason, whose original shop in St. James's Market led directly to the founding of London's Fortnum & Mason
William Fortnum, whose enterprise as a footman in the household of Anne, Queen of Great Britain in recycling the stubs of the royal candles led to the partnership that became Fortnum & Mason
O.L. Rapson, the first manager at the Grand Rapids Hotel, and later a grocer in Marlin, Texas.
John James Sainsbury
Deutsch, Tracey. Building a Housewife's Paradise: Gender, Politics, and American Grocery Stores in the Twentieth Century (2010)
Nebraska Jewish Historical Society. Mom and Pop Grocery Stores (2011)
Spellman, Susan V. Cornering the market: Independent grocers and innovation in American small business, 1860--1940 (Oxford University press, 2015) online dissertation version 2009