Published on: April 23, 2009Now available on iTunes…
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, your first stop for retail website design services.
There’s nothing like hitting the road when you want to take the temperature of the US food retailing business. Over the last few weeks, that’s sort of been my life. As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve been working on a video project that will be shown at the CIES World Food Business Summit in New York this June. Our goal is to transport the retailer and manufacturer delegates beyond the conference hall in midtown Manhattan and give them a taste of innovative food retailing elsewhere in the US. The theme of the Summit is “Ingredients for Success,” and we’ll be identifying some of these ingredients in a series of videos.
In the past two weeks alone, my crew and I have had the opportunity to visit one of Safeway’s newest Lifestyle stores, near Denver; take a look at an unusual IGA urban store in Seattle; spend some time in Walmart Supercenter # 1 in Rogers, Arkansas; and go to New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina almost destroyed that city and visit one of three new Save-A-Lot stores opened there in a neighborhood that once was under five feet of water.
These are just some of the stores we’ve visited on our journey, and the only frustration has been that while we’ve profiled some dozen retailers, I could easily have identified another 12 or 24 or 36 that I would have liked to include.
There are times that I can get a little cynical about the state of food retailing, especially when it comes to certain issues like food safety or transparency…but it is hard to be too cynical when you get a chance to see stores, chat with retailers, and watch customers.
Here are three lessons that I take from my recent travels. (There are a lot more, but I’m saving those for the video.)
1) In pretty much every store we visited, at some level the retailer was able to communicate value to the shopper while still imparting a sense of the values behind the store. That is incredibly important, it seems to me, because it allows the retailer to be viable beyond the moment and to develop a narrative that will work even when the recession is over, whenever it is over.
2) At the risk of sounding jingoistic, this is a wonderful country. I’ve seen a lot of it over the past four or five weeks – in addition to doing this video project I’ve had another one that I’ve been working on, and also have been giving a few speeches. And while I’ll admit to being a little worn out at the moment, I never get tired of visiting areas of this country that I’ve never been to before, and revisiting familiar places. Sure, it is the food and the beer and the wine…but it also is the people in the stores that we saw, and the pleasure so many of them seem to take in their work. Again, cynicism can sometimes make us forget that people generally define themselves, to a greater or lesser degree, by the work they do. They want to enjoy it, they want to make a contribution, and sure, they want to be rewarded for their efforts. Sounds pretty reasonable to me.
3) Finally – and I say this as someone who speaks and writes for a living – one important lesson of which I have been reminded is the importance of a continuing education. We stop learning, we stop growing. We stop growing, we stop being useful…to anyone. I’m lucky…I have a job that requires me to keep learning…but this trip has reminded me of the importance of keeping my eyes open and to listen to the answers when I ask questions.
Which brings me to a last point about this leg of my travels. As I record this, I am preparing to spend some time with a class at Cornell University. They want me to talk, but my experience has been that students tend to teach me a lot more than I teach them, and I expect today to be no different. Which is, by the way, why I recommend that if you don't spend some time with college students on a regular basis, you should reach out to your alma mater or your local college or university. The time you spend on campus will pay benefits, in spades. Believe me.
My time in the classroom will be the best part of the day…at least until the class is over and I head to the airport and get back on a plane. There are places to go, people to meet, things to do…and lessons to learn.
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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