Dude, where is my grocery store?
That, or something like it, is the number one search query related to “grocery stores” on Google.
In fact, here are the top related search term for “grocery stores” for the past year, according to Google Trends:
- stores near me
- grocery stores near me
- grocery stores open
- grocery store
- walmart grocery
- grocery store near me
- store near me
- grocery stores open on christmas
- grocery stores open near me
- stores open near me
- open grocery stores near me
- best grocery stores
- walmart near me
- food stores near me
- grocery stores open christmas day
- grocery delivery
- grocery stores delivery
- stores open on christmas day
- grocery stores open on christmas day
- publix grocery stores
- whole foods
- what grocery stores are open
People new to an area, or perhaps on an extended vacation, want to know where to get their groceries.
Grocery stores are not always easy to find, and thus the term “food desert” takes on real meaning for those without easy access to fresh foods.
The USDA has a helpful tool that identifies the numbers of retail grocery stories on a county basis throughout the U.S.
The Food Environment Atlas shows, for example, shows the percentage of the population with low access to grocery stores and the number of grocery stores per county.
My wife and I live in Johnson County, Kansas, which in 1914 was home to 16 grocery stores, three club stores, 30 convenience stores and six specialized food stores. All together, the food atlas said there were 57 SNAP-authorized food retailers in Johnson County in 2016.
My folks live in Phelps County, Nebraska, a rural county with just three grocery stores and nine SNAP-authorized retailers in 2016. Other rural counties have two, one or even zero grocery stores. For some rural counties, more than half of their population has low access to a grocery store.
Of course, Google will tell you the street address of the nearest supermarket when you type that question on the search bar. Walmart has their own online store finder.
It is much easier for those of us like myself lucky to live within a couple of miles of Walmart, Aldi, Target, Hyvee, Hen House and more.
If you wake up in Loomis Nebraska, you might have to get in your car and drive 20 minutes.
To the extent we depend on brick and mortar stores to shop for juice, milk, bread and fruit, we must know where to point our cars. What about those who are unable to drive?
With traditional grocery stores losing market share and store count to wholesale club stores, supercenters, discounters and dollar stores, perhaps e-commerce technology can help bridge the distance for consumers in food deserts.
Notice that “grocery delivery” and “grocery stores delivery” were among the top related search terms for 2019, and I expect their relative importance will increase as we look ahead,
How long will it be before the answer to the question “where is the nearest supermarket?” will be found a smartphone app?
The nearest and most convenient retailer may be a “virtual” grocery store open for shopping 24/7, with the ability to schedule online grocery deliveries to Loomis, Nebraska.
People can dream, can’t they?