Published on: March 15, 2011by Michael Sansolo
There are few things more instructive in this industry than walking a store with a terrific operator. In the course of a few aisles it becomes apparent how even complex issues like shifting demographics connect seamlessly to on-shelf merchandising.
My recent lesson in the collision of issues came courtesy of Paula Correy, senior vice president of Hy-Vee’s Western Division. Paula is impressive for countless reasons, but nothing more so than her ability to balance the experience of a woman and mother with selling products.
Paula talked about how the coming of spring means merchandising opportunities that range into countless categories. While seasonality is gone for so many products thanks to global sourcing (which might change thanks to localization), it’s getting more pronounced in new areas. The changing season, Paula explained, means it’s time for marketing a different palette of make-up and nail polish that fit the season; or even scented candles that match the aromas of spring, not winter.
While that seems so obvious, I wonder how many retailers have women in positions of power to make certain end-caps reflect the list of needs that Paula spouted off effortlessly. A male merchandiser might certainly know everything she said, but having women in management ranks sure does make a difference.
The importance of reflecting the face of the American shopper goes way beyond women and is growing larger and tougher by the moment. Some of this may bother you, but the reality is that change is coming fast.
Last week a study from the US military that found today’s officers are significantly older, whiter and more likely male than the entire military population overall. Some of you might find that study provocation for an angry email supporting merit based promotion in the military and you’d be right. All organizations - particularly the military - need leadership to flow from the best and brightest.
But think about the long-term trend the study highlighted. For the military to recruit and retain the best, it needs officers who can relate to and lead the enlisted. No doubt the military will be putting extra effort into finding and keeping the best female and minority candidates, so that tomorrow’s officers look more like tomorrow’s soldiers and can lead an army of the future.
For all industries, that means even more competition for the next generation of leaders, especially minorities and women. And we need to get moving quickly. Hopefully, you are watching release of census data, which is showing far more change than anyone anticipated.
Pay attention to the news from California and Texas, where the number of Hispanics is growing quicker than ever. In Texas, there is clear surprise as to just how much of the state’s growth is coming from the Hispanic community. The simple truth is that our two most populous states are quickly moving to minority/majority status - where no demographic group tops 50 percent. But the change doesn’t stop at the border states. Last week there was a story from central Pennsylvania, where Hispanic populations are growing in small cities that are home to affordable housing and reasonable commutes to larger cities in the Northeast.
The challenge is simple: as the population changes, our leadership ranks need to change and we’ll be competing for new talent with the military and more. Of course we can learn to sell and serve these emerging groups of shoppers. But having your own Paula Correy pointing out the potential for you, instead of against you seems like a much better path.
Start looking now.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
- KC's View: