How to get full grocery store inventory?


I don't have money for a warehouse right now and I want to ship food with JIT inventory. But in order to do so, I need to have a list of products (around 3000 of them) the store sells. And I need to buy them all from just one location so I can't ask smaller (and more willing) retailers for cooperation.

I already tried 2 options for obtaining this list of products:

  • I tried to ask local stores directly, but they didn't have
    any interest.
  • And I tried to search for any online lists of products,
    but they are not complete.

I'm thinking of 2 other options:

  1. I can go to the store with hd spy cam and try to extract all the info
    from the footage, but that would be very difficult.
  2. I can send a few workers to the store so they can write down a name
    and price of every product of those 3000 and hope they would collect
    as many of it as possible until security catches them. This would
    be very time-consuming. And because of the security, it would need to be a different person every time. And I would need to send them in different days, etc.

None of the above are illegal in our state, but the store security won't let me do any of it.

Can anyone think of any other solution for resolving this issue with minimal time and resources? All I need is the list of products.

PS: English is not my native language, so sorry for any errors.

Business Market Research Food

asked Feb 5 '12 at 23:59
106 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • Why do you have to have the full list of 3000 items the very first day you start your business? Maybe you could start with a short list of what is most popular. Eventually your supplier will help you if you prove you can sell their items. – Jeff O 11 years ago
  • That's true, but how can I know which ones are the most popular? I don't have access to any statistics about this. Every person likes different products. – Sergey 11 years ago
  • I'm aware of many fails in this business. I'm also aware why they failed and I know about the ones that are still alive. There is indeed a great amount of problems on the way. But year after year online sales are increasing and I think selling food online is the future. Where I live, this isn't very well known and because of it I see this as an opportunity. As for your first point, you are obviously correct - I can't predict which items will be most popular. And if I tried to and missed, money on marketing would be less effective - people would try to order something and it would not be there. – Sergey 11 years ago

3 Answers


You don't state which country you are in, and perhaps there is a cultural difference here, but in the United States a typical grocery store might stock 40,000 - 50,000 items with a "super store", common in most metropolitan areas, stocking far more than that. Here is some statistical data from FMI.

A store here that only had 3,000 items would be considered perhaps a convenience store, certainly not a grocery store.

As for getting a free/low cost list of items, here is a free site with a list of over 1 million (not all grocery). Here is another list of such sites.

As for getting a list of items in stock at a particular store, have you considered dumpster diving? Most stores printout an inventory list and they generally get thrown in the trash. Also how about just asking one of the managers if you could have an old list when they are done with it?

answered Feb 6 '12 at 02:38
Jonny Boats
4,848 points
  • Those statistical data could prove useful, thanks for that. Here in Europe the size of the store is similar. But I want to offer just food. Not toys, not clothes, not alcohol, not electronics, etc (which are the part of those 40-50k items). So that's why I guessed 3k. But that's just approximate number for better perspective of the question. As for asking the managers - as I stated above, I did try that and they didn't cooperate. Dumpster diving is not an option - containers are guarded and I don't think there would be anything useful in them either. – Sergey 11 years ago
  • Sergey: Do you know of anyone who used to work as a grocery store manager? A former employee would perhaps be willing to share his experience. – Jonny Boats 11 years ago
  • Unfortunately not. But that's not a bad idea. Maybe I will try to find someone. – Sergey 11 years ago


You know your total budget and what the supplier offers. So go through the price list picking out items that you think are in demand. Then, order small quantities of each (staying within your budget) to see how quickly customers buy them: quick ones get reordered, slow ones don't.

answered Feb 6 '12 at 02:00
1,963 points


If you can't contact by phone or email 20 people who you think could use this service and ask them what products they prefer, don't go into this business. You don't know enough about the market.

The convenient purchase and accurate on-time delivery is what is going to make or break your site. Claiming you offer everything in the store is probably not a key feature. Give the users the opportunity to tell you what they need.

You can start small and offer the key items people tend to run out of. You're saving them a full trip to the store just because they ran out of bread.

I used a delivery service because I could have a regular schedule of basics (milk, bread, eggs, sandwich meat, apples) dropped off on my doorstep into a cooler with one of those blue cold packs in it every Tuesday morning. I had a reoccurring order. They switched their service and wanted to have a delivery time when I was home, so they could upsell me on other items. I had no intentions of making sure I was home. It totally defeated what I thought was the convenient factor; I wake up in the morning and get my food. I still went to the store, but less than half the time. Giving me a chance to buy crap I don't need is not a selling point. I cancelled a couple of weeks later.

answered Feb 7 '12 at 04:25
Jeff O
6,169 points

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