Cloudy 1984/2020 Vision

For our January cover story Grocery Headquarters asked a panel of industry experts for their views on what the supermarket industry will look like in the year 2020. Unfortunately my invitation must have gotten lost in the e-mail. I suppose that is a good thing because my views of the future are a bit more draconian.

For starters, by 2020 retailers will have invested heavily in front-end personnel. They have to because under the nation’s Food & Nutrition Czar Michael Bloomberg all consumers will have to present two forms of photo ID before purchasing a 2-liter bottle of soda. However, soft drink sales will plummet once government regulators shrink a 12-pack to a 9-pack and replace colorful labels with images of unclothed morbidly obese individuals.

Front-end technology will also dramatically evolve. New checkout systems will not only easily scan bar codes and deduct coupons, but they will also tally the total caloric count of the purchase. If your order exceeds the allotted 2,500-calorie per day maximum, the conveyor belt will stop and a pleasant feminine voice will purr, “I’m sorry, but you have surpassed your allotted caloric intake. Please put back the Twinkies” – yes, Twinkies will find a savior and still be around – “and buy another stalk of celery.” Good luck for shoppers trying to circumvent the allocation because by law all shoppers will have to have frequent shopper cards so the government can track their purchases and all frequent shopper card programs will be tied into a database in Washington, with a backup in Minot, N.D.

Unfortunately, retailers will not be able to pay for these front-end advancements by selling more cigarettes. While they will still be legal, most chains will drop them, unable to afford the $500,000 per store Annual Cigarette Licensing Fee. The good news is that they will make up the losses with legalized marijuana sales. Order separators will advertise the latest brands – High Five, Mellow Man, Munchies Maker – and no store will be complete without a fine selection of high-margin bongs. In the Bakery Department, sales of brownies “with all the fixin’s” will skyrocket, by the way.

Over in Pharmacy, shoppers will be lining up to get their flu shots from IBM’s new Automatic Flu Shot Dispenser. Simply insert your Obamacare Card into the slot, then
stick in your arm – or baby – and the shot is automatically dispersed. No more needing to talk to the pharmacist.

Will I be right? Check back with me in seven years. I’ll be easy to find as I will be chairman and CEO of Macfadden/Time-Warner Communications.

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