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Super Retailer Summit: Tips for Small Merchant Survival - 7/8/2011

Date: 07/01/11 | Source: Specialty Food Magazine | Author: Denise Purcell
Categories: Industry Operations; Retailers | Tags: Event News; SFFS
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Super Retailer Summit: Tips for Small Merchant Survival - 7/8/2011

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Standing in the store and doing nothing may be one of the most beneficial things retailers can do for their business, says Tom Moseman, senior vice president at Envirosell, a consumer behavior researcher and consultant for commercial spaces.

By Denise Purcell

"Stand there, be quiet and watch how people move through your store. Understand how they navigate the space, where they engage. It will be enlightening," says Moseman, the keynote speaker at the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade's (NASFT) Super Retailer Summit, which kicked off today at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C. co-located with the upcoming Summer Fancy Food Show.

As part of his presentation, "Surviving and Thriving as a Small Merchant in the 21st Century," Moseman outlined three key issues facing retailers:

1. Amenability equals profitability.

"Merchants' attention to the needs of shoppers goes directly to the bottom line," says Moseman. It is critical to understand what people do in the store and what their needs are and adjust accordingly.

While observing shoppers, pay attention to:

  • Entrance. What do shoppers do when they first enter the store? Where do they first look or walk? Is there a clear directional path? Retailers traditionally put store circulars in the front entrance area, assuming customers will see and take them as a first step before they begin shopping. Not always so. According to Moseman, the store's front is a decompression zone for customers just walking in, organizing themselves and getting their bearings. Many items go unnoticed, so retailers may want to rethink that strategy.
  • Signage. What's obvious to staff as far as navigation is concerned is not always clear to customers. Shoppers often don't look overhead at signage, notes Moseman. They tend to navigate by products, and when these products are packed too tightly together, they can miss things. Other signage on the product level, especially Staff Picks, can be very effective, however.

2. Allow the point of sale realities to drive strategy.

Once merchants have observed what happens in the store, let the realities inform decisions, says Moseman. Most importantly, empower front line staff to make decisions and give them the tools they need to do so.

Here are more areas for retailers to focus on from Envirosell's Tom Moseman:

New tools. What happens in the next 10 years in the retail world  is more important than what's happened in the past 50 years, he says. Technology and changing shopping patterns play an undeniable roll in the future. "The tools we are used today, such as category management, stand in the way of reinvention. It manages today but doesn't think anout tomorrow," Moseman says. Self-scanners, self checkout and point-of-sale marketing are more areas that have gained traction in the U.S. in recent years.

Good windows. "This is one of your most valuable pieces of real estate, " emphasizes Moseman, who advises store owners to think about dimensionally. Window designers think you look at windows straight on, but as you walk you more likely see them from the corner of your eye, he explains. Posters and price signs are not only unexciting but they are flat. Create depth and angles to catch the eye and think about how to use light and color. And always allow people a sight line in the store where the action is.

Breaking the walls. In addition to increased competition from farmers markets, drug stores, dollar stores, some of which sell not only packaged goods but produce, the advent of the pop-up store is reinventing retail. "It offers an opportunity to literally and physically think out of the box," says Moseman. "How can you create outposts for your brand in the community."

3. Operations, products, design and marketing work together.

Often stores, signage, fixtures and packaging all have separate designers who don't communicate, or who have differing objectives, says Moseman. Retailers need unity in all of these aspects, and need to think about how to unify them with the online experience as well.  "They are each part of the brand experience," he points out.

A unified environment carries right down to the shopping basket. "Whoever came up with the plastic cart should be shot," jokes Moseman. "You perceive your store as a fun, exciting, cultured experience--and this [cart] is at the other end of the spectrum." He suggests turning a shopping basket or bag into a fun, add-on purchase, similar to what retailers such as Old Navy do by handing shoppers a bag when they enter the store and letting them keep their purchases in it to take home for a small upcharge. Other merchants, such as Spain's Vincon, release a new shopping bag design every quarter, which many customers collect.

Attitude goes a long way toward creating a brand experience, too. "This isn't a hospital. It's not a life or death situation," Moseman quips. "Create an enjoyable experience. If you're having fun, you're shoppers will too. We tend to think of 'the shopper' is someone else. We're all shoppers. Do you like to march in a straight line, or do you like having fun?"

Facing the Big Store Competition

Smaller specialty food retailers are often well positioned to combat competition from bigger chains. "You have the ability to be nimble and make change happen quickly," says Moseman. Additionally, as a local presence in the community retailers know their shoppers, often by name, and can address their desires. "We talk to big retailers about building community, but you already have that advantage," he continues. Moseman advises creating events that draw in the community. For example, "if a shopper is known as a fantastic cook, see if she'll host a cooking class," he suggests.

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Super Retailer Summit: Tips for Small Merchant Survival - 7/8/2011


Standing in the store and doing nothing may be one of the most beneficial things retailers can do for their business, says Tom Moseman, senior vice president at Envirosell, a consumer behavior researcher and consultant for commercial spaces.


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