It is fascinating to me how the staffing in grocery stores has become polarized on two ends of a spectrum. Whereas it used to be the only choice for people to do their own shopping and clerks to check them out, today there are fewer and fewer lanes where this distribution of labor occurs. Instead, we see the growth of self-check lanes where you do you own ringing and bagging — as well as expansion of curbside pickup and delivery where you do neither, allowing the store to shop for you.
I wonder about the economics of this shift and whether those who used to serve as checkers are now functioning as shoppers instead (doubtful). I wonder if people buy more or less when they shop online for groceries. I wonder if the increase in curbside will continue post-COVID or whether it has become part of the routine that will be hard to give up.
I thought of all this when walking into Aldi and seeing their designated curbside spots. It seems to be off-brand for the economical leader to offer premium high-cost services, even if they do charge a nominal fee for it. Aldi is Aldi precisely because they have foregone the bakery, deli, Starbucks, et al that most grocery chains have added. I doubt they will be as successful if they straddle both sides of the low-cost/high-touch line.
The takeaways for you: a) pay attention to shifts in what becomes normalized and b) to how brands position themselves. It may highlight an opportunity for you to fill the space that has slowly been vacated or it may point to a new opening where you are able to thrive.