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3 Keys to Successful Multi-Ethnic Retailing

Multi-Ethnic Retailing Tips

Photo by Selena N.

Thinking of a multi-ethnic offering?  Retail Category Consultants spent time in the ethnic grocers including Chalo, T&T Supermarkets, Highland Farms and Nations Fine Foods to understand what differentiates the ethnic from the multi-ethnic stores.  Nations Fine Foods was doing the best job.  We have distilled their success into three key areas.

1. Offering fresh foods

A true ethnic experience means a focus on the fresh food departments.  This goes beyond adding a few new items into the produce and meat departments and means really understanding the breadth of product used in ethnic recipes.  If you want to attract a broad ethnic base or the “foodie” shopper, it is important to be a one stop shop for the fresh ingredients they expect.

While adding the variety required for ethnic shoppers may seem like a daunting task, there is significant crossover between different ethnic recipes.  So, this is not as daunting as it may seem.  As we watched consumers of a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds shop, we saw many purchasing the same product.  In fact, the fresh departments at Nations Fine Foods were not significantly larger than at many grocery stores, but the variety of product offered was significantly larger.  This meant less stock of more traditional products, though we did not find out of stocks to be an issue.

Breadth of assortment includes the offerings in the fresh prepared areas such as ready to heat and ready to eat.   Introducing a broader array of fresh foods and displaying it in a traditional ethnic fashion sets the tone that you are a destination for a broad range of ethnic foods.

2. A broad dry grocery assortment

What is true in produce is also true in the dry grocery aisles.  Offering a broad assortment of product with less depth, all within the same linear footage is challenging.  However, when good category management practices are applied to the aisles in many traditional grocery stores, there is significant shelf space that can be freed up to add in ethnic selections.

While Chalo has designed their store to feel like two stores in one – Indian and Traditional North American, we do not recommend this strategy.  It makes the store too large and is not inviting to a diverse ethnic mix.  At Nations Fine Foods, they have built ethnic sections within traditional store categories.  Since even the ethnic customers rarely shop only ethnic product, and because they have multiple ethnic offerings (rather than just two), it makes the store infinitely more convenient for consumers.

3. Enhance the overall shopping experience

How do ethnic customers prefer to shop?  Do they want their product pre-packaged or do they want to choose it themselves?  Designing the shopping experience to allow them to choose product in a fashion they are comfortable with helps to encourage these customers to visit your store.  In some instances, managing smells is also critical.  This is particularly true in the meat and seafood departments.  At Nations Fine Foods, they moved the fresh seafood into a separate room with terrific ventilation.  It allowed them to create many tanks for live offerings and self-serve barrels for iced product without creating a fishy smelling corner of the store.

Look at your staff.  What ethnic groups does your store staff represent?  If you want customers of multiple ethnicities, one way to attract them and make them feel comfortable in your store is to ensure that your staff comes from a broad range of ethnic backgrounds.  Diversity is good for both employees and customers.

When you expand your ethnic selection, don’t hide it within traditional sets.  Make sure you are grouping product together and that you are using your merchandising, store design and signage to highlight these offerings, particularly when it’s in an unexpected area of the store. Highlighting that you have placed an importance on product that is familiar to your ethnic customers enhances their shopping experience and encourages loyalty.

With a few well thought out strategies, you can rebrand your store as a multi-cultural destination.


To learn more about how we can help your retail business achieve success, visit our retail services page or contact us for further information.