“You can pretty much be in Anywhere, U.S.A., in center store, but the perimeter is the fashion side of the grocery business,” said Sharon A. Lessard, chief designer at Supervalu, which operates Cub Foods stores as well as chains like Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s and Albertsons in some markets. “The perimeter is where we can best distinguish ourselves from everyone else.”
By center store, Ms. Lessard meant those long, soldier-straight rows of shelves that have long been the heart of the American grocery store but are now showing signs of the grocery equivalent of atherosclerosis. Shopping and eating patterns are changing, and those changes have threatening implications for the food companies whose shelf-stable products have long filled the center store.
With center store sales down, the most forward-looking supermarkets are rethinking the allocation of space — shrinking the staid center and expanding the sexy perimeter.