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Grocery store margins make writing look profitable

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Geez, man. I had the obligatory grocery store job in high school. So I had seen first hand the narrow operating margins of grocery stores. But noted food writer Michael Ruhlman really lays it out in excruciating detail in Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America. Check out the following exchange Ruhlman had with the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Newspaper: Is it true that profits in the grocery world are small?

Ruhlman: They are harrowingly small. The average profit margin of a store is 1.25 percent. So, if Heinen’s sells $600 million worth of food in a year and all the stores together turn a profit of $7.5 million, that’s miniscule. It costs that much to renovate a store.

Read the full interview here.

A lot of writers lose money, forget turning a profit, even a small one like one percent. So I guess maybe it’s not that fiction or poetry are huge money makers in comparison to selling cans of soup and rolls of toilet paper. Still, Ruhlman is a good writer and observer and the book is a fascinating read into an industry that most of us take for granted.