Center Store is Returning to ‘Front and Center’ Status

Differentiation is key, says SymphonyIRI Group

CHICAGO -- For a period of time, the center store was a bit of a white elephant within the grocery industry. Competition was heating up, and retailers were working to bring differentiation to their stores. So, perimeter departments, such as meat, produce and fresh bakery, received a great deal of time and attention, and the center store was left to fend for itself.

Today, however, center-store departments are playing an integral role in serving CPG shoppers and are capturing nearly two-thirds of CPG dollars and 70% of unit sales, representing an opportunity worth more than $440 billion.

The current edition of SymphonyIRI Times & Trends, "Center Store: Driving Growth from the Inside Out," explores center-store sales and share trends, as well as emerging strategies CPG marketers are leveraging in an effort to drive share and revenue.

"The center store has truly become the heartbeat of the store," said Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends, SymphonyIRI Group. "Consumers are turning to home-based eating and self-reliant health and beauty care to save money, and the center store has benefited greatly from these consumer rituals. It's no surprise that competition is heating up, so differentiation will be the key to ongoing success. This is difficult in the center store, but it's not impossible."

See “Related Content” below for a look at some of the data from this report.

Currently, CPG marketers are placing a new emphasis on promoting center-store categories, which for the purposes of this report include beauty care, beverages, general food, general merchandise, health care and home care.

Successful innovation is paving the road to growth for many center-store categories. In fact, eight of the 10 fastest-growing categories benefited from new brand launches that addressed consumers' needs for exciting food and beverage solutions, sensory stimulation, health and wellness, and convenience. For instance, Febreze Set & Refresh, a decorative air freshener that eliminates odors, and Pediasure SideKicks and Ensure with Revigor, nutritional drinks that target both ends of the age spectrum, are examples of new products that met consumers' needs.

"In the end, the winners in the battle for share of spending and loyalty in the center store will be those that provide superior products and a better, more relevant selection in the center store," said Viamari. "This means products that are tightly targeted against the needs of a retailer's shopper base. This will not only prevent customers from defecting to another retail banner, but it will also lure them into the center store and encourage them to buy products there vs. competing perimeter department solutions."

SymphonyIRI is offering a free webinar titled "Center Store: Driving Growth from the Inside Out" at 11 a.m. CT on Tuesday, Jan. 8. Click here to register for this webinar.

Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group is a global leader in innovative solutions and services for the CPG, retail and healthcare industries. SymphonyIRI combines powerful market and shopper information, predictive analytics, flexible technology solutions and consulting services to help its clients drive and grow their businesses.