February 27, 2012

Modernize or Else

It is becoming an all too familiar scenario in the world of kosher. A successful long-time kosher retailer suddenly finds competition from a new boy in the block, peddling an upscale store, wide aisles and service that cannot be beat. For some customers, the opening by a competitor, albeit offering a better shopping experience, poses a dilemma that often borders on a moral decision: to favor convenience and a modern-day shopping experience or to stick to loyalty at all costs. With the passing of everyday, shoppers are sending the message that they do favor a better shopping experience. It is interesting to note that even the price-conscious are now patronizing the new stores, albeit for less than a full shopping basket. Some shippers are openly rebelling against stores that used their status (sometimes even a monopoly) to charge higher prices without investing into the store. Most of the industry is smelling the coffee and realizing the winds of change. Younger shoppers are part of the new age that includes a plethora of kosher cookbooks and the influence of social media. In addition, Harriet and Sadie that came in as much for the schmooze as for the schmaltz have passed on, making way to a more savvy kosher shopper.

While it is difficult to project just how many more makeovers are underway, I know that many projects for upgrades, makeovers and even new construction are in various stages of planning. Those who still harbor the idea that cheaper prices will carry the day may be only partially correct as I see more and more people on a fixed income visiting an upscale store for a dip, salad, or a gourmet dish to take home. It is a fact that if only some of the “fixtures” would have taken the initiative to upgrade, it is entirely possible that a more upscale store in their immediate midst would have stayed away. It is certainly not too late for those who still desperately hold on to the theory that change would put them out of business. The recent reality has shown that the opposite is true: no change may very well spell the demise of the business that refuses to change.