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The mobile supermarket is a fresh food truck that drives into the residential zone or in areas far from the bazaar or supermarket. There are selling food, fresh fruits and vegetables to serve as if we were in the supermarket. It also offers special services such as the purchase of goods according to the consumer’s needs, such as sending products from restaurants or ordering a specific item which is not regularly sold and ordered in advance during the festival. In an ageing society such as Japan, it is pushing a mobile supermarket to stimulate the economy and please the elderly to be able to spend without having to go anywhere.

Since the majority of the Japanese population is elderly, the IMF report estimates that the ageing society will cause Japan’s annual GDP to fall by an average of 1% over the next 3 decades. At the same time, it is expected that the proportion of the elderly population over 65 years will increase from 28% to 38% by 2050, and most of them will be single and have no children. This is affecting the behavior of people, the number of supermarket customers may decrease because these older people are not convenient either to go to the supermarket or to carry heavy items back home would not be possible. Otherwise in some residential area is too far away from the supermarket, and public transportation may not support. So this mobile supermarket is a proactive marketing strategy and adaptation of local businesses and big companies. It appeared that this kind of business is very flourishing in Japan. Both local supermarkets and large capitalists are now making marketing plans to compete in this sector, the number of trucks is rapidly increasing every year, and they try to expand more service areas to be inside the cities. Also, sales have increased dramatically during this COVID-19 situation since most people cannot go outside.

Some people may wonder why this business is very prosperous in this online shopping era. Even though we have the delivery service, some customers still want to select fresh food on their own, and some elderly are not familiar with the technology. Moreover, the price would be lower than the supermarket, and they are frequenters of each service area. The familiarity of the seller and customer is also the critical factor, and the targets are elderly or housewives who are not convenient to go out.

This blog is an example of a business that has adaptation under globalization under the concept of “serves the convenience”, I could say that mostly it happened in Asian countries. It is possible that in the future we may have less space for supermarkets and retail in the city. Since the elderly in the future will be us in this generation who may have different desires from the elderly today. How do you think the buying experience will change? We may lessen the go out, so do it advantages or disadvantages for our city?


References:

  • Hasegawa, T., 2020. Aging Japan Creates Demand For Grocery Stores On Wheels. [online] Nikkei Asian Review. Available at: https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Retail/Aging-Japan-creates-demand-for-grocery-stores-on-wheels [Accessed 16 April 2020].
  • Walia, S., 2019. How Does Japan’S Aging Society Affect Its Economy?. [online] Thediplomat.com. Available at: https://thediplomat.com/2019/11/how-does-japans-aging-society-affect-its-economy/ [Accessed 16 April 2020].
  • ​Siri, Y., 2015, ‘Systems and services of “Mobile supermarket” towards the development of housing estates: a research report, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok.  
  • Peters, A., 2017. The Grocery Store Of The Future Is Mobile, Self-Driving, And Run By AI. [online] Fast Company. Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/40429419/this-tiny-grocery-store-is-mobile-self-driving-and-run-by-ai [Accessed 16 April 2020].
  • Jll.co.th. 2018. Why Japan’S Retailers Are Courting Older Shoppers. [online] Available at: https://www.jll.co.th/th/trends-and-insights/cities/why-japans-retailers-are-courting-older-shoppers [Accessed 16 April 2020].
  • Shimbun, C., 2017. Aichi’s Mobile Supermarkets Keeps Seniors Stocked With Groceries, Checks In On Aging Customers | The Japan Times. [online] The Japan Times. Available at: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/08/14/national/aichis-mobile-supermarkets-keeps-seniors-stocked-groceries-checks-aging-customers/#.XpdAb9MzbGK [Accessed 16 April 2020].
  • Japan Bullet. 2016. Mobile Supermarket Brings Store To The Customer’s Doorstep. [online] Available at: https://www.japanbullet.com/features/mobile-supermarket-brings-store-to-the-customer-s-doorstep [Accessed 16 April 2020].

5 responses to “Mobile supermarket and the Ageing society”

  1. Thank you very much for this thought-provoking piece.

    Your remarks regarding how Covid-19 has caused a dramatic increase in demand for the mobile supermarket, in Japan, made me contemplate whether it could have sparked a market for this within the UK. Due to the implications of Coronavirus, we have seen people “making fewer trips” to shops, “with 61% of Brits saying they’ve been [to supermarkets] less frequently” in order to maintain social distancing measures (Nolsoe, 2020). In the UK, people have started to rely on food home-deliveries, smaller local shops and take-aways, with companies launching telesales services for “those not comfortable with online shopping” (Stevens, 2020). The Government have also been providing emergency “food parcel” deliveries to the “clinically extremely vulnerable” isolating at home (GOV.UK, 2020). Many village pubs have adapted into “grocery stores” to supply local residents with “essential food items” (McCarthy, 2020). This new business has helped to “reach local communities in a more efficient and accessible way”, much as you have described in such a way that mobile supermarkets were less necessary (McCarthy, 2020).

    This poses the question that, if people become accustomed to accessing their food by these new methods, will they change their shopping habits permanently? Will they continue to support their local areas offering and having food delivered straight to their door, or will they revert back to the convenience of a one-stop weekly food shop at the large retailers once the Covid-19 pandemic has passed?

    References
    GOV.UK. (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19): Accessing food and essential supplies. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-accessing-food-and-essential-supplies. Accessed on: 21/05/20.

    McCarthy, E. (2020). Covid-19: UK Pubs Are Leading The Way In Adaptation. Available at: https://www.liberis.co.uk/blog/uk-pubs-sell-groceries-during-coronavirus. Accessed on: 21/05/20.

    Nolsoe, E. (2020). COVID-19: Brits turn to corner shops for essentials. Available at: https://yougov.co.uk/topics/food/articles-reports/2020/04/17/covid-19-brits-turn-corner-shops-essentials. Accessed on: 21/05/20.

    Stevens, B. (2020). Covid-19 Online Shopping Guide. Available at: https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2020/04/23/covid-19-shopping-guide/. Accessed on: 21/05/20.

  2. Thanks Mark for this interesting and thought provoking post for bringing goods near to our door step. This method is thoroughly applied in Philippines but within smaller and informal scale. Street vendors are prevalent in my country. In addition, these businesses tend to offer local produce from their farms or hand made crafts. It operates from the streets, these businesses may work permanent location or mobile carrying their produce to places with high foot traffic (Forkour et al., 2017). In addition, this method of business model contributes largely on Philippines informal economy (Palma, 2019). It is noted that it contributes 5 trillion pesos (£80 billion british stirling) to the national economy which is more than a third of Philippines gross domestic product (Sinay, 2019).

    In context to my country, street vendors have become an integral part to people’s lives and the urban fabric. From my experience during after schools when i was a kid, everyone buys snacks, supplies and fostering friendships to our regular vendors stands. Linking my experience of street vendors and mobile supermarket, I completely agree with your opinion that this mode of business can cater the needs of the elderly as they have limited mobility. Nevertheless, this business model offers an immersive experience similarly in supermarket. Additionally, this experience may enhance the already existed communities through casual conversation when elderly come across with their neighbours. Hence this tool can be a magnet to more opportunity to combat isolation and depression which are prevalent in the ageing population. (Mental health statistics: older people, 2018)

    Forkuor, J., Akuoko, K. and Yeboah, E., 2017. Negotiation and Management Strategies of Street Vendors in Developing Countries. SAGE Open, 7(1), p.215824401769156.

    Mental Health Foundation. 2018. Mental Health Statistics: Older People. [online] Available at: < https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-older-people> [Accessed 22 May 2020].

    Palma, R., 2019. OPINION: Let’S Treat Street Vendors As People, Not Problems. [online] cnn. Available at: < https://cnnphilippines.com/life/culture/2019/7/15/urban-planning-vendors.html?fbclid=IwAR2> [Accessed 22 May 2020].

    Sinay, A., 2019. How Do We Build Cities Inclusive Of Street Vendors?. [online] Rappler. Available at: < https://www.rappler.com/move-ph/235658-how-to-build-cities-inclusive-street-vendors> [Accessed 21 May 2020].

  3. I like this article very much and pay great attention to the details of life.
    Because in our China, in the long ago have this kind of mode, are nothing more than a peddler pushes a cart before selling in the community the door with fruit or all kinds of cooked food or snacks, this is not only beneficial to people convenience, also make full use of the broad street space, increase the neighborhood relationship, make streets more fun and safe. It also provides people with cheaper and fresher fruit [1]. Slowly into the modern urban period, people pursue higher taste and quality, as well as the way of combining with high-tech. For example, mobile solar coffee machine without sales staff, to now mobile automatic cooking machine [2]. It makes more efficient, comfortable and beautiful.Many major cities in China have been able to buy and sell fresh vegetables or any related daily necessities by themselves in the software of mobile phones, which can be delivered to the destination in just over 1 hour, which is very convenient [3]. And during the Covid-19, there was a lot of non-contact food supply [4].

    Reference:
    [1]Fast Company. 2020. The Grocery Store Of The Future Is Mobile, Self-Driving, And Run By Al. [online] Available at:< https://www.fastcompany.com/40429419/this-tiny-grocery-store-is-mobile-selfdriving-and-run-by-ai> [Accessed 9 May 2020].

    [2]Chain Store Age. 2020. Food Wholesale Co-Op Enables Member…Offer Contactless Shopping. [online] Available at: < https://chainstoreage.com/foodwholesale-co-op-enables-members-offer-contactless-shopping> [Accessed 9 May2020].

    [3]Winsight Grocery Business. 2020. How Grocers Are Reimagining The Future With Al. [online] Available at:< https://www.winsightgrocerybusiness.com/technology/how-grocers-arereimagining-future-ai> [Accessed 9 May 2020].
    [4]Dell Technologies. 2020. This Staffless Grocery Store May Be SelfDriving To A Neighborhood Near You – Dell Technologies. [online] Available at:<
    https://www.delltechnologies.com/es-ve/perspectives/this-staffless-grocery-storemay-be-self-driving-to-a-neighborhood-near-you/> [Accessed 9 May 2020].

  4. I like you take this ageing problem into more consideration. That a nice idea to have mobile convenience store that go and sell the product directly to the customer. But in my opinion this phenomenon has both positive and negative impact to the urban neighborhood.
    This mobile store happens in many places around the world with many different formats. Mobile store is one of the place making product that rise from the people by itself because of the demand and it happens organically from the people and creating small pocket of place making (Project for Public Spaces and Metropolitan Planning Council, 2008).
    We can see that people interact each other in their neighborhood because of this mobile store. And the space that build is not formal makes the place into more traditional. And the place located always picked for the ease of the people to get in the store. I agree for the movement that doing in japan to make easier for the elder to buy groceries with this mobile store. But if the mobile stores monopolized by big convenient store company the space become not natural and monotonous in each area and not creating particular place making for each region. The shop should bring the culture and locality to promote good neighborhood. Many place in others country takes this small economic movement as their local identity and can make the place distinctive this calls urban economic development that proof with the small economic movement can raise others social parameter in small area such as interaction and communication (Kelly, Ruther, Ehresman and Nickerson, 2016).
    In others side, there is negative impact for this mobile store. If the city not equipped with planning and policies about this business. Because the rule of where high demands comes high supply some areas consider as ‘sweet place’ will be collecting too much mobile store that can cause the space become crowded and can make the place unhygienic and unsecure.

    Reference.

    Kelly, J., Ruther, M., Ehresman, S. and Nickerson, B., 2016. Placemaking as an Economic Development Strategy for Small and Midsized Cities. Urban Affairs Review, 53(3), pp.435-462.
    Project for Public Spaces and Metropolitan Planning Council, 2008. A Guide To Neighborhood Placemaking In Chicago. [online] Chicago: pp 7-10. Available at: < http://www.placemakingchicago.com/index.asp> [Accessed 7 May 2020].

  5. Dear Mark,
    I was surprised about this article because of the exciting innovation in delivery and selling. It is a brilliant idea.

    In the perspective of urban study, this innovation provided to respond to the lack of public amenities, especially the market or grocery. In rural areas, the housing complex mostly far from the town centre.

    This trend also happened in my country Indonesia, but it is kind of simple to do. The vendor walks around and visiting door to door using medium size move-able stall. They are selling cheap price daily supplies, but they are usually only carrying limited stock.

    Besides the highlighted point to serve the elderly who difficult to move around, this innovation giving opportunity for local farmers to directly selling their fresh produce, in particular, it helps their business grows. Furthermore, a mobile supermarket is a green innovation because it could reduce carbon emission from the travelled vehicle. This essential thing is parallel with the sustainable rural area effort by encouraging innovation, which is a must. It will be triggering the local economy developed.

    Regarding the business pattern, this innovation may change the customer’s habit of shopping for any goods further. Companies could more have penetration selling to the customers because the companies now turn comes to the customers.

    I think this new business style is suitable in a rural area, which in many rural regions founded in Asia. The rural area is an excellent place to do some research and development even there is a lot of limitation.

    References:

    Gurria, A. (2007) OECD Rural Conference 2007: Innovative Rural Regions: The Role of Human Capital and Technology. [web] available at: http://www.oecd.org/spain/innovationinruralareasanexceptionoramust.htm (Accessed at 21 April 2020)

    Lacourt, I. City Food Policy: Mainstreaming sustainable food system. [pdf] available at: http://base.citego.org/docs/eating_la_fiche.pdf (accessed at 21 April 2020)

    Uknown (1997). Innovation and rural development. [pdf] available at: https://enrd.ec.europa.eu/sites/enrd/files/innovation.pdf (accessed at 21 April 2020)

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School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
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Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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