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Abstract

During the past decades grocery-retailing in Germany has experienced a structural change towards less but larger shops. Particularly in small villages within rural areas it is problematic to ensure the supply with daily goods in walking distance or locally. In order to adequately analyse the existing challenges and develop solutions, the current trends in local supply need to be examined and assessed with regard to their potential impact on rural areas. Against this background, this working paper assesses recent studies and scientific publications that focus on grocery retailing and e-commerce. As a result, the consolidation of long-lasting trends and the emergence of new trends, the stability of which still remains to be seen, is evident. Among the persisting trends, the strong competitiveness and the market concentration on a few chains are most prominent. In addition, and due to differentiated demand, small stores are replaced by larger ones for assuring a sufficient range of products. Then again, the market share of hypermarkets is decreasing. One reason for this decrease is the lack of time or time pressure felt by consumers, which results in less frequent shopping trips and the connection of shopping trips with other activities. Regarding the means of transport, the car is most frequently used for shopping trips, particularly in rural areas. The share of elderly people with access to a car has been increasing steadily during the past few years and thus the necessity for supply in walking distance became less urgent. The decrease of grocery stores in general continues, but is less intense than between 2005 and 2010. In addition, consumer surveys indicate that the high price sensitivity, that has been typical of Germany, has declined somewhat and that consumers are increasingly focussing on the quality of goods. Accordingly supermarkets and discounter adjusted regarding the product range and pricing. This development opens up potential for new formats, such as e-commerce, mobile supply and small-format concepts. Delivery costs are one major challenge for e-commerce in rural areas, especially since consumers show low willingness to pay for such services. Hence, e-commerce is growing primarily in urban agglomerations and has limited potential in rural settings in its current form. The same applies for delivery-formats such as crowd-delivery that focus on challenges regarding the ‘last-mile’. In its current form the realisation is limited and not a feasible option for solving supply-problems in rural areas.

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