Arin Alexander, VP of Client Relations, Vixxo, and Michael Sutherland, VP of Solutions Architecture, Vixxo, talked about the myriad changes and challenges in the grocery industry related to the onset of COVID-19. This episode of Get Your Fix is the first installment of a 3-part podcast conversation.

Delivering a satisfying customer experience while maintaining profitability is always a challenge for grocery stores, but the pandemic has made it even more difficult. “Whether it’s brand identity, floor space, distribution, or personnel, things are going to be different,” Sutherland said. “Grocery stores need different safety factors, self-serve products are moving to prepackaged, and the equipment, and how stores maintain and deliver those products are all impacted as we go through this transformation.”

While a clean store environment is always a concern, the pandemic applies additional challenges to a store’s facility department to maintain safe, sanitary conditions in a fashion not seen before the pandemic. “Consumers have to see us being clean,” Alexander said. “They have to see us wiping down the conveyor belts. They have to see us cleaning extra in the store. We have to make sure we have safe chemicals and that they’re visible to our consumers. The realistic expectation is consumers won’t shop unless they feel comfortable.”

Sutherland noted many grocery stores that invested in self-service technology, from check out to buffets, racking, and distribution of baked products, or dry goods, have had to revert to older methods during the pandemic. “Now, stores need fixtures and floor space to distribute these products and services.” All of the economic benefits stores were expecting, from improved self-checkout scenarios, are on hold now. “We are seeing investment dollars that were set aside for new products and equipment, now consumed by the need to restage existing products.” And, as stores wrestle with these unavoidable factors, they are looking at which products make sense to maintain, and which products should go away.

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