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Editor's Note: Service argument continues
By Fiona Robinson, Editor in Chief
March 01, 2009
The self-service vs. full-service seafood debate has gone on
for years. Retailers that support self-service tout the labor
and space savings, as well as the reduced shrink. On the flip
side, full-service counters offer the one-on-one interaction
with knowledgeable staff that is often needed to sell
The topic resurfaced with the late-2007 rollout of Tesco's
Fresh & Easy small-format supermarket. Associate Editor
Steven Hedlund writes about the grand plans for the mini
concept in this issue's Top Story, "Small Wonder," which starts
on page 26. The British retail giant has high hopes for the
little grab-and-go store: 122 sites in the Southwest have been
located and the company has pledged $2 billion for its U.S.
expansion, which reportedly included a Chicago opening shortly
before press time.
While the format may help a lot of time-starved consumers,
the jury is out on whether it is good news for seafood sales.
Retailers live by the "location, location, location" mantra,
but the current real estate choice in the desert Southwest,
which is not exactly known for its seafood consumers, doesn't
bode well for seafood. The results might be different if the
stores were in a seafood-centric location like the Pacific
Northwest or New England, where consumers don't need to be sold
on the protein and probably know a frozen fillet may be better
than a slacked-out "fresh" one. Depending upon its location in
the 'burbs, seafood may stand a better chance in markets such
My experience with self-service seafood has never been good.
Two Maine supermarket chains have self-service seafood and I've
never seen a customer purchase anything but surimi seafood. I
have no doubt the department is nothing but shrink for both
chains. Some retailers like Costco have a successful
self-service seafood department, but not every chain can
duplicate Costco's buying program to
reduce shrink and make a
profit. Tesco will find the right fit for seafood in its
concept, or else pull
it out altogether.