Published on: May 6, 2010Now available on iTunes…
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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.
This week, if I may, I want to return to a subject that I addressed here last week ... mostly because I fear I may not have made myself entirely clear.
Last week’s MNB Radio commentary talked about a new Stop & Shop that has opened in my town, a perfectly nice conventional supermarket that is vastly superior to the barely mediocre Shaw’s store that used to occupy that space. I said last week that my concern for the Stop & Shop is that it is facing competition from an existing Stew Leonard’s (the original), an about-to-open Whole Foods, and a soon-to-open Fairway Market. I said that the challenge to Stop & Shop is that being conventional - not too big, not too hard to shop - may not be good enough anymore. Being better than good enough is their central challenge.
I got a few emails questioning my premise, suggesting that I was comparing apples to oranges...and that a more valuable commentary would have been to address the chasm that sometimes exists between inspired and uninspiring traditional or conventional stores.
That’s a reasonable point. It is fair to say that some conventional stores outshine others - and that to be successful one does not necessarily have to adopt the theatrics and animation, not to mention the focus on fresh foods, that you might find at Stew Leonard’s, Whole Foods and Fairway.
I guess what I was really saying is this. I hate the word “conventional.” I know it is a format term, but I always think of it as an adjective. And I hate it.
In order to stand out, retailers have to do something special. They have to have something going for themselves that nobody else has. Call it anything you want - my favorite term of art is “differential advantage.” But what it comes down to, I believe, is what should be a compulsive unwillingness to accept the word “conventional” as a description of anything a company is trying to achieve. Conventional questions and conventional thinking yield conventional results.
The retailers I admire - the people I admire, whether writers or filmmakers or chefs or politicians or even business people - generally are the ones with a distaste for the mainstream, the traditional, the good-enough ... and the conventional.
For companies like Stop & Shop, the real challenge is to find ways to create a culture and a store that transcend the adequate... to create a shopping experience that inspires the shopper.
That ought not be the province just of the outliers, the exceptions. In my view, that ought to be the whole purpose of operating a retail business. Whether it is an apple, or an orange.
For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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