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Albertsons CEO Larry Johnston tells the Financial Times that he believes that the supermarket of the future will allow shoppers to be “guided by an intelligent, hand-held scanner. It not only reads product labels and tells them the prices, keeping a tally of what they spend; the moment they arrive at the shop and swipe a loyalty card through the machine, it downloads from the Internet a shopping list that they have drawn up on their home computer.”

The scanner then “leads them around the shortest route between products on the list. It alerts them to special offers, based on past purchases, and reminds them if any frequently bought items are missing. At the end, the scanner charges the total to shoppers' credit cards - with no waiting at the checkout.”

Johnston tells the paper that Albertson's expects to have this technology in all its 2,500 stores within 18 months.

In addition, Johnston says, the company plans to expand its Bristol Farms division, which was created when Albertsons bought the 11-store independent company earlier this year. The goal is to create alternative formats that will meet different consumer needs, as well as to mine “reverse synergies” that Albertsons believes can help the larger operations.
KC's View:
FT also notes that Albertsons is working from a position of weakness not strength, because it also is grappling with tough competition from the likes of Wal-Mart.

And Johnston, who is fairly new to the industry, has tough words for the mainstream food business. "I think the industry did a terrible job of preparing for the arrival of new, non-traditional competitors," he tells the paper. "I would almost compare it to how Detroit prepared for the arrival of Japanese cars. It was a fairly arrogant attitude."

We look forward to seeing whether Albertsons and Johnston will be able to realize their vision.