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Nancy Koehn On Small Grocery Stores Disrupting Larger Chains

Smaller Grocery Stores Might Be Making A Comeback

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Vegetables are seen on display at a grocery store in River Ridge, La., Wednesday, July 11, 2018.
Gerald Herbert/AP
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Nancy Koehn On Small Grocery Stores Disrupting Larger Chains

Despite Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, not all grocery chains are going bigger. In fact, new players in the industry are going small.

Harvard historian Nancy Koehn joined Boston Public Radio today to talk about how the decline of traditional groceries stores has led to a rise in a atypical models.

She says the crisis in grocery stores is analogous to the decline of malls and department stores. Large retailers like Amazon with delivery and low prices force the reduction of services at other chains, leading to a downturn in the customer experience.

“In the wake of the troubles and squeezing of supermarket chains, and the generally less-than-perfectly pleasant experience of shopping for groceries 1.6 times a week, we’re seeing these new interesting particularly small players and concepts arise,” said Koehn.

One of the innovations Koehn discussed was a grocery store with no packaging, where a customer could enter and buy a single egg instead of a half-dozen or dozen.

“Lots of folks, particularly in urban areas but by no means confined to urban areas, are flooding back... to smaller outlets,” said Koehn.

Nancy Koehn holds the James E. Robison Chair of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. Her latest book is Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times.

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