For most traditional grocers, the story of the last few years goes something like this. The store did the same things in the same way for a very long time: carried the same large recognizable brands, worked with the same few suppliers, and didn’t have to think a lot about changing things up. Slowly, they noticed that sales of those traditional brands had started to flatline, and new types of products were growing in popularity. Customers were asking for more local products, more organic options, more foods from small independent producers, and products with shorter, more legible ingredient lists. So, the grocers were forced to learn more about these types of products and start seeking them out. They had to find new ways to display them, and often added entire natural foods focused sections or aisles to their stores. This type of change has presented a steep learning curve for many traditional grocers—some have done well and have been able to succeed, some continue to be challenged.
What we know best
Our story is very different. The vast majority of the staff who pick and price products at Willy Street Co-op have been working in the natural and organic food industry for our entire careers. This is what we know best. We are adept at working with very small local vendors, and we have connections and savvy within the natural foods world that many conventional grocers can only dream of.
For us, the world of conventional groceries is just as foreign as the natural foods world is for the traditional grocers, and it poses just as many challenges—from learning how the conventional supply chain works, to picking what products we should carry, and how we should price them.
Opening Willy North has been a serious crash course for us in how the rest of the grocery store world works. Early on in the planning process for our new store, we heard loud and clear from many northsiders that they wanted this new store to have more traditional, conventional, low-cost options than Willy East or West. So, we added hundreds of new conventional products for opening day in mid-August. After opening, we received an outpouring of feedback from shoppers that helped us fill in products that we had missed and in Septemberwe added hundreds more new products.
How are we doing?
So, how did we do in our efforts to provide more low-cost products and make our store more accessible to everyone on the northside? There are many ways to measure success, but one of best is to simply see how our pricing measures up. Are we fairly priced compared to our competitors? We did a sample price review in mid-September to answer that question, and I’ve shared the results below.
The products listed below are all currently available at Willy North. Some, but not all, are available at Willy East and West. Prices are subject to change based on market changes, but were current as of mid-September. In order to provide as accurate a basket total comparison as possible, I used the Willy North price for items that our competitors did not stock. If you’d like us to bring in a product or if you find a product much cheaper, let us know!