Profitable Local Grocery Stores Impact Their Communities

Grocery Stewardship Certification

Great communities in New Hampshire have a few things in common; at the top of this list is having accessibility to high quality foods, fresh produce, meats and groceries. 

The local grocer is a mainstay in many communities, and plays an important role. They offer the ingredients of home cooked meals, provide jobs and foster a sense of community.  How many times have you bumped into your friends, neighbors, and town officials in your local store and had conversations?

Stores also support local community efforts with donations to events, food pantries and even sports teams. They house our community bulletin boards.  

In rural New Hampshire where driving long distances to get essentials can be difficult and costly, grocery stores are valued.  It’s important that local stores stay vibrant and profitable.      

As an industry, grocery stores operate on tight profit margins. Growing competition to traditional grocery shopping habits (enter ingredient-and-recipe meal kit providers such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, along with the online retailers like Amazon) can put further strain on an already tight profit margin. 

So what is a grocer to do?  With the help of the NH Grocers Association, the Small Business Development Center Business Sustainability Program has delivered the Grocery Stewardship Certification Program (GSC) to 14 NH grocers across the state:  from the North Country to Manchester, from Keene to the Seacoast. The GCS is a program developed by Manomet, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit whose mission is to engage with people using science to make the natural world, forest, food, and economic systems more sustainable. Manomet has rolled the GSC out to over 900 grocery stores across the country.   

The GSC’s 214-point assessment touches many aspects of store management and helps managers see how their bottom lines are impacted by electricity efficiency of lighting and refrigeration equipment, as well as waste handling of compostable, recyclable and dumpster waste streams.  Participants learn how to engage their employees and minimize their environmental foot print.  A few stores have made investments into energy efficiency and now will save thousands of dollars every year. * 

One good strategy for a grocery store to further increase the benefit of these cost-saving results is to communicate to customers their efforts in reducing their footprint and its impact on the community.  Building customer loyalty is an important strategy for grocers to thrive.

*The U.S. EPA has calculated a 1:18 ratio in comparing energy savings to revenue for the grocery sector. That means that every dollar in energy savings is equivalent to $18 in revenue. The Grocery Stewardship Certificate Program can help create these results for your local NH grocery store.

- Contributed by Andrea O'Brien, director of NH SBDC's Business Sustainability Program.