Much has been written about how the market share of the six largest retail chains continues to grow. But a recent Food Marketing Institute study found the average size of a U.S. grocery store in 2003 was 34,000 sq. ft., the first time it's been below 40,000 sq. ft. in more than a decade. Chalk up the change to phenomenal growth in target-marketed, niche-oriented stores, particularly in the natural/organic, Hispanic and gourmet specialty niches.

Thus, the retail industry is consolidating at one end, while smaller, more customer-oriented stores are proliferating at the other. The trend is in keeping with what we often hear in agriculture — you either have to get big or become uniquely special.