Calling a supermarket a grocer's (shop) or grocery in BrE

< Previous | Next >

meijin

Senior Member
Japanese
Hi, just like it is normal in AmE to call a supermarket a "grocery store" (meaning a store that sells mainly food), is it normal in BrE to call a supermarket a "grocer's (shop)" or "grocery"? Or do you use the term only when the store is very small? I made up the following example conversation.

Father: Where are you going?
Son: A grocer's. / A grocery.
Father: Which one?
Son: Does it matter? It's Sainsbury's.
 
  • kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Grocery store and supermarket are exact synonyms in the U.S. It's just personal preference which one you say.
     

    AnythingGoes

    Senior Member
    English - USA (Midwest/Appalachia)
    Grocery store and supermarket are exact synonyms in the U.S. It's just personal preference which one you say.
    I wouldn't go that far. They overlap, but "supermarket" evokes the image of a larger store than "grocery store".

    My little town has a grocery store which I knew as "the supermarket" when I was a boy and it was even smaller than it is now. My wife always complains when I call Tom's a "supermarket" because it's so small. She says "No, that's a grocery store."
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Not at all.:) If I go to a supermarket I go to a supermarket. Sainsbury's is not a grocer's.:)
    Maybe it's normal for British newspapers to call supermarkets grocers? The following is from this BBC's article: Lidl tops Waitrose to become UK's seventh biggest grocer.

    Since the financial crisis in 2008, the four biggest grocers Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrisons have faced increasing pressure from luxury supermarket brands like Waitrose, as well as German discount chains like Aldi and Lidl.

     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Maybe it's normal for British newspapers to call supermarkets grocers? The following is from this BBC's article: Lidl tops Waitrose to become UK's seventh biggest grocer.

    Since the financial crisis in 2008, the four biggest grocers Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrisons have faced increasing pressure from luxury supermarket brands like Waitrose, as well as German discount chains like Aldi and Lidl.
    That’s an interesting use, quite specific to comparing the market leaders in the supermarket industry.
    They probably use grocer because it’s shorter than any alternative way if grouping these businesses.


    In daily life I never hear grocer’s or grocery as a type of shop. We either go the supermarkt (more usually named as Tescos etc) or just « the shop ».

    I have heard things like “ we need some groceries” but equally we can say “we need some shopping” and in my house that would mean something for meals, etc.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    In daily life I never hear grocer’s grocery as a type of shop. We either go the supermarket or just « the shop ».
    Do you not have shops in your area that are smaller than supermarkets but larger than "the shops" (I think these are corner shops, or convenience stores) that mainly sell food and drinks (e.g. fruit and veg, meat, dairy products, tinned food, non-alcoholic drinks)? Do you call them supermarkets even though they aren't really super? (Maybe some people call them minimarkets?)
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Do you call them supermarkets even though they aren't really super? (Maybe some people call them minimarkets?)
    I certainly don't.:) I'd just call it a local shop or, if you pushed me to be specific, I'd call it a grocer's. The one near my parents' home in London sells newspapers as well and so is known as the newsagent's.

    Oddly enough, 'minimarket' is a term I use when speaking Italian, never when speaking English.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    (Maybe some people call them minimarkets?)
    I call them "the shop" if it is local; - "I'm going to the shop - do you want anything?"
    A convenience store (somewhat formal) or mini-supermarket as a generality, "My friend owned a convenience store/mini-supermarket in Scotland."
    by (i) their franchise name (strangely with the definite article.) - "I'm going to the Spar - do you want anything?"
    or (ii) the owner's name - "I'm going to Rajesh's - do you want anything?"
    or (iii) a locative - - "I'm going to the top/bottom/<insert name of district> shop - do you want anything?"
    to distinguish one local shop from another.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    In AmE, I think convenience stores and grocery stores are different. Grocery stores are bigger than convenience stores, and big grocery stores are called supermarkets, or just grocery stores.

    In Japan, we have these small grocery stores as well and they sell mainly fresh produce, meat, fish, dairy products, tinned food, bread, beverages, etc., and these are usually not chain stores. We never call them convenience stores. Examples of convenience stores are Seven Eleven, Lawson, Familymart, etc.

    In Britain, it seems supermarkets are too big to be called "grocer's (shops)" or "groceries", corner shops or convenience stores don't sell enough food to be called so. If a British speaker said, for example,
    "I work part time at a grocer's (or grocery)", does it mean the same as "I work part time at a small grocery store" in AmE?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    In Britain, it seems supermarkets are too big to be called "grocer's (shops)" or "groceries",
    No, the reason is that supermarkets sell everything from food to electronic goods - they have a grocery section, a butcher's section, a fishmonger, a bakery, a clothes section, etc., etc. Grocery is restrictive.

    Grocers and groceries do exit as separate occupations and shops, but in small numbers. They sell fruit and vegetables and dry goods. So if someone said to me "I work part time at a grocer's (or grocery)", I would understand that he worked in such a shop.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    No, the reason is that supermarkets sell everything from food to electronic goods - they have a grocery section, a butcher's section, a fishmonger, a bakery, a clothes section, etc., etc. Grocery is restrictive.
    Interesting. If I'm not mistaken, these stores, if really big, are called "superstores", "supercenters", or "hypermarkets" in the US (I think "hypermarkets" are less common in the US than in Europe). And I think grocery is not restrictive in the US. I think large "grocery stores" in the US also have a butcher's section, a fishmonger, a bakery, etc.

    Grocers and groceries do exit as separate occupations and shops, but in small numbers. They sell fruit and vegetables and dry goods. So if someone said to me "I work part time at a grocer's (or grocery)", I would understand that he worked in such a shop.
    I see. Good to know.


     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I think large "grocery stores" in the US also have a butcher's section, a fishmonger, a bakery, etc.
    Yes, it wouldn't be my idea of a grocery store without that. (Except we don't have fishmongers. The meat department handles meat and fish.)

    Here's a department list from Kroger:
    Meat & Seafood
    Grocery
    Produce
    Natural & Organic
    Deli
    Bakery
    Adult Beverage
    Cleaning and Household Essentials
    Health
    Beauty & Personal Care
    Floral
    Pet Care

    And just about every regular Kroger will have a pharmacy, too. (There are some smaller stores that don't.)

    Not all of the above are necessarily physically separate departments. The pet stuff is just in the normal aisles, for instance. Some of those are more "shopping categories" for their online business where you order and come pick it up. I was a bit surprised not to see dairy listed also.
     
    Last edited:

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Here's a department list from Kroger:
    Meat & Seafood
    Grocery
    Produce
    Natural & Organic
    Deli
    Bakery
    Adult Beverage
    Cleaning and Household Essentials
    Health
    Beauty & Personal Care
    Floral
    Pet Care
    Thanks Kentix. Looking at the list, I had to wonder what the word "grocery" exactly means. I looked it up in the WR dictionary, but it didn't really help.
    The following is from Wikitionary, but the definition is pretty ambiguous.

    Noun
    grocery (plural groceries)
    1. (usually groceries) retail foodstuffs and other household supplies.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I'm guessing that covers all the canned goods, breakfast cereals, cookies, rice and pasta, soft drinks, snacks, potato chips, boxed goods, etc. - basically anything that doesn't spoil - like meat and produce - and so doesn't need special handling. It just goes on the shelves.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    OK, so even though groceries are only a small part of the merchandise sold there, it's natural in AmE to call the entire store a grocery store. And if it's huge and sells home electronics, clothes, etc., you wouldn't call it a grocery store or supermarket, and instead call it a superstore/supercenter or call it by the name of the store. Am I right?
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Yes.

    But part of it is historical, too. Kroger has been a grocery store for decades. Lately, some of their stores have gotten bigger and they sell more stuff - like lawn furniture, small electronics and whatever. But they are still a grocery store because that's still their primary business, the stores are still organized like grocery stores (the way the aisles and departments and checkout lines are laid out), and that's how people think of them.

    Walmart was a general goods store for decades. It didn't sell groceries. Lately (well, for the last several decades), they have added grocery departments but they aren't a grocery store. They are laid out like a general goods store and have all the departments a general goods store has (electronics, clothing, sports and outdoor equipment (including hunting-related goods in some areas), household goods, a pharmacy, a jewelry department, an automotive section, a pet section, etc.) They just decided to add groceries as another way to make money. But they aren't a grocery store or a supermarket in the traditional meaning.

    You could say the two types of stores are converging (to some extent) but they are still noticeably different. They doubled the size of our Kroger but it still doesn't look or feel anything like a WalMart.

    OK, so even though groceries are only a small part of the merchandise sold there

    In the sense of the standard phrase I need to go grocery shopping, groceries covers anything you eat (in my mind) including the meat and fish and fruit and baked goods and everything else. So I wouldn't say it's a small part. It's their main business.

    Here's a typical grocery store layout:
    Grocery Store Aisles Map Google Search Storage Pinterest Storage Cool Ideas 6149 | thehappyhypocrite.org
    Almost everything is in long, parallel aisles

    Here's a typical (newer) WalMart layout (click on the picture):
    Weblinksnewsletter: Severn Maryland WalMart Opens - Well Received!
    Things are divided up into rectangular, thematic sections by aisles
     
    Last edited:

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    To me a grocery store is a small store that sells a restricted amount of food and other household products, essentials you might need when the larger supermarkets are closed.

    A minimart is a small supermarket and usually has a turnstile to get in and a checkout counter (or more) where you pay.

    A supermarket is a much larger version of the minimart and usually sells a limited range of clothing items and other stuff you don’t get there or at the grocery store.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    In the sense of the standard phrase I need to go grocery shopping, groceries covers anything you eat (in my mind) including the meat and fish and fruit and baked goods and everything else. So I wouldn't say it's a small part. It's their main business.
    You're right. In that sense, it's their main business. Thanks a lot for all the explanations and the pictures (now I get the picture :)).

    To me a grocery store is a small store that sells a restricted amount of food and other household products, essentials you might need when the larger supermarkets are closed.
    So "grocery store" in Australia is similar to (or the same as) "grocer's (shop)" in the UK, I suppose.

    A minimart is a small supermarket and usually has a turnstile to get in and a checkout counter (or more) where you pay.

    A supermarket is a much larger version of the minimart and usually sells a limited range of clothing items and other stuff you don’t get there or at the grocery store.
    Do people in Australia actually say, for example, "I'm going to a minimart", "I work at a minimart", etc. in daily speech?
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    So "grocery store" in Australia is similar to (or the same as) "grocer's (shop)" in the UK, I suppose. :thumbsup:


    Do people in Australia actually say, for example, "I'm going to a minimart", "I work at a minimart", etc. in daily speech?
    I’m going to the minimart/I work at a minimart wouldn’t be that common, but only because there aren’t that many of them here. I’ve seen and been to a few in Sydney, but I haven’t seen any in Perth. Most people go to a larger supermarket because they’re cheaper.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Minimart is sometimes used here, but there really aren't so many of them. We might use 'convenience store'. When I lived in the UK, I don't recall anyone talking about going to the grocer's. It was always just the shop, or the corner shop or possibly the newsagent's. We used to go to the greengrocer's though (which sold fruit and vegetables only).
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Do you not have shops in your area that are smaller than supermarkets but larger than "the shops" (I think these are corner shops, or convenience stores) that mainly sell food and drinks (e.g. fruit and veg, meat, dairy products, tinned food, non-alcoholic drinks)? Do you call them supermarkets even though they aren't really super? (Maybe some people call them minimarkets?)
    We have lots of different sized shops, yes. In the trade these might have different names which might be used in legal documents or journalism, or even written on the store front. BUT everyday people don’t use terms like convenience store or minimart in everyday conversation in the UK. Corner shop is the exception- especially if people are having a conversation about something other than actually using the shop (e.g. my grandparents used to own a corner shop). Culturally “corner shops” have a place in British life. Even so, when I am popping out for groceries I never use the word grocer/ groceries or any of the synonyms you suggest. I go to Tescos or I go to the shop. It’s about local habits and local geography. Everyone knows what and where “the shop” is.

    Another fascinating revelation about US/UK differences. I didn’t know they use grocer so frequently.

    Plus an interesting reflection on context. Yes, we have all theses synonyms or distinctions which do have some uses, but they’re only used in a narrow set of circumstances.
     
    Last edited:

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you all very much for all these explanations which were very helpful. I learned a great deal in this thread.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top