Are Grocery Stores Going Extinct?

Are meal and grocery services driving grocery stores out of business? We're scoping out the competition—and the things your favorite grocery stores are doing to survive.

Woman standing in front of a row of produce in a grocery store.Photo: Shutterstock / Adam Melnyk

We don’t mean to alarm you, but a lot of grocery stores might eventually become extinct—”might” being the operative word here.

The recent influx of meal and grocery delivery services makes it easy to pick out your produce and perishables from the comfort of your couch—and have your order sent straight to your doorstep hours later. Naturally, there are a lot of perks to online shopping. You save gas and don’t have to clean your reusable shopping bags as often.

But it’s not all positive. Call us old-fashioned, but we like hand-selecting our produce, finding a milk gallon or egg carton with the best expiration date, and scarfing down some free samples. So what’s the deal? Are grocery stores actually going extinct? We’re stacking up the competition—and what your favorite grocery stores are doing to survive.

Meal Delivery Steps Up

A lot of companies are trying to become “the next grocery store.” Meal kit services like Blue Apron, HelloFresh and Purple Carrot sell boxes full of chef-tested recipes and perfectly portioned ingredients. You could argue these services take the creativity out of cooking, but if you’re strapped for time (or learning to find your way around the kitchen), they’re pretty convenient.

And then there’s the crop of grocery delivery sites. Companies like Jet.com and Amazon Fresh do all the heavy lifting for you. Some sites, like Thrive Market, even cater to niche, organic-eating customers.

Simply enter your ZIP code and pick out your items and your order will be waiting at your door hours later. You’ll have to pay a small delivery fee, but it beats waiting in line for 20 minutes, right? Like it or not, this trend isn’t going away anytime soon. Online grocery sales raked in $20.5 billion in the U.S. last year alone, and is expected to reach $100 billion by 2025.

Grocery Stores Fight Back

The good news is several stores are making the necessary changes to stay afloat. Earlier this year, Amazon bought healthy eats mecca Whole Foods for $13.4 billion. Not only did Amazon slash Whole Foods’ prices by up to 43 percent, it’s now offering private Whole Foods labels (think Whole Foods Market and 365 Everyday Value) on its site.

And Whole Foods isn’t the only store making changes.

Walmart may have its roots in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, but the savings den is going head-to-head with Amazon. In addition to offering free two-day shipping, Walmart owns Jet.com, which will launch a high-end grocery store on its site. And in some cities, Trader Joe’s, Fairway and Stop&Shop are delivering through platforms like Postmates, Instacart and Peapod, respectively. So it seems like grocery stores have what it takes to survive…for now. But in 20 years? Only time will tell.

While the jury may still be out on the fate of brick-and-mortar grocery stores, they’re not closing tomorrow. Not ready to give up your favorite grocery? Here are our tips for grocery shopping like a pro.

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Kelsey Mulvey
Kelsey Mulvey is a freelance writer and editor based in New York. Her hobbies include wine, nachos and the occasional hibachi dinner.