I was driving with my nearly 4-year-old granddaughter a few days ago. We drove by a Walgreen’s store and my granddaughter recognized the building and signage from a previous visit, but didn't remember its name. She asked me what the store was and if that was the one we had visited. As we turned left, on the opposite corner of the intersection was a CVS store. Again, she pointed and asked if that was the Walgreen’s that she and I had been in.
I chuckled at her equating the stores in her mind-–and then noticed how identical the size and shape of the buildings were, how close the colors and signs were, how similarly they use the space on their lot and orient their buildings. They did look like two of the same chain of stores!
Her observation–-and the surprising similarities between the stores-–provides some good food for thought and maybe a goal or two for 2014.
Is your store unique? Does it have characteristics to make it stand out in shoppers' memories? Do your product offerings and selection, your staff and their knowledge, your friendliness and shopping experience stand out to make your store memorable? Follow these steps to make sure your store isn't just like all the rest.
- Be sure that you have the basics. Don’t be so focused on being unique that you miss out on the basics. You have to have a broad selection of brands and products including both commodities and unique items. You have to have what is the latest and greatest, but the old reliable products must be there, as well. (A basic-–and one that adds uniqueness-–is a strong private label program. There are many good partners to consider if this is not something that you are doing already.)
- Look for ways to meet needs that others are not meeting. What section or category of merchandise is under-represented in your market? What can you do to meet that need? Are shoppers in your town not able to find what they need in Tea? Bulk? Pet Products? Household Products? Produce? Children’s products? Non-GMO? Etc. Ask your shoppers what they did not find when they were in your store.
- Realize that both of those are changing. The basics are made up of previous fads. While it is not "hot" low-carb is still in demand with a segment of your shoppers. A few years ago, however, it was a major driver of traffic and sales. I did not list gluten free above because that category is currently very hot and I would expect to find it in every store. At some point, I expect that this will cool off a bit and it will be one of those basics that you have to have. For now, promote the daylights out of it!
To stay in touch with what product trends are happening, I encourage you to make a resolution in 2014. Of course, you need to read every issue of Natural Foods Merchandiser and pay attention to the blogs and other content here on newhope360.com. Beyond that, however, make a resolution to attend both Expo West and Expo East. Attend the show put on by your primary distributor. UNFI and KeHE do some great events around the country as do Palko, Nature’s Best and others. Also, attend the regional NPA events in your part of the country. At these shows, be sure to walk the aisles looking for good deals on the basics and to find and learn about what you do not currently stock. Not every new item or concept will work in your store, but some will. Also, make time to be a part of the education at these shows. There is good product information to be gained, along with good retailing and business information. Those sessions are worth the time that you invest in them.
May 2014 be an outstanding year for your store. The more that you stand out from the crowd, the more likely that is to happen.