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Hi. I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MNB Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

The Consumer Goods Forum - or, as we like to refer to it around here, the organization formerly known as CIES - is out with its Top of Mind survey, in which more than 300 decision makers and thought leaders are polled about the issues that they feel are most important in the coming year.

I’m always fascinated when this poll comes out by how retailer and manufacturer concerns often diverge...though this year it should come as no surprise that “the economy and consumer demand” is ranked as the top issue by both sides of the food chain.

For retailers, number two is “the retail brand offer,” which has to do with price, assortment and format; number three is “corporate responsibility,” which includes sustainability and governance issues; number four is “competition”; number five is “food safety”; number six, “health and nutrition”; number seven finds “consumer marketing” and “retailer-supplier relations” tied; and number nine is “technology and supply chain” issues.

For manufacturers, “retailer-supplier relations” gets the number two position, which suggests that it is a lot bigger worry for suppliers than for retailers. (This has some significance for the Consumer Goods Forum, which, unlike the retail-driven CIES, supposedly represents both sides of the fence. I’ve already heard complaints from some members about how manufacturers are looking to dominate the organization, and other complaints about how big retailers are trying to dominate small retailers, which violates the egalitarianism on which CIES used to pride itself. But these are all sort of “inside baseball” issues...)

However, the rest of the big manufacturer issues are pretty much in synch with what retailers are thinking about. Number three for manufacturers is “the competitive landscape”; number four is “corporate responsibility”; “food safety” comes in at number five; number six is “health and nutrition”; number seven is “the retail brand offer” (which is a lot less important to suppliers than to retailers, which certainly makes sense...even if I think that manufacturers ought to be just as concerned about it as their retail customers); And tied at number eight are “internationalization” and “consumer marketing.”

Part of the fun of a survey like this is figuring out how you would vote had you been one of the people polled. I’m not an actual retailer, so my ballot would be a little skewed...and I’d love to know what MNB readers think. Let’s make it easy...If we all assume that of all these issues, the economy is number one...then which of these would be the second most important issue for you?

And maybe, just maybe, you are focused on an issue that CGF did not even mention.

I’d think the number two issue - and only number two by a hair - would be the “competitive landscape,” if only because all these other issues seem like a subset of that. By having strong retailer-supplier relations, a focus on food safety, by having a strong sense of corporate responsibility - these are all ways in which we create a differential advantage that makes us competitive.

But you may feel differently about it. I’m curious.

For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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