retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

This morning’s Eye-Opener comes courtesy of Feargal Quinn, founder and former CEO of the iconic Irish supermarket chain Superquinn. (He sold the company years ago to an investment group, which recently sold it to the Musgrave group, which hopefully will restore it to past glories. At present, Quinn keeps busy as an elected member of the Irish Senate, as well as host of a television program on which he goes around the country helping businesspeople improve their business strategies and tactics.)

At the 5th annual Good Food Ireland conference recently, Quinn recalled that the use of the Irish language made Superquinn different from the competition, and added: "I believe the Irish language gives us an advantage that we haven't always used and we can use more."

That strikes me as being as much metaphor as demonstrable fact. If a retailer can create a straight line of communication with its customers - in essence, speaking a language that others cannot or do not speak - that gives it a tremendous advantage. That is something that Superquinn, during its heyday, always seemed to do - its stores spoke to consumers in a unique way, and told a story about the power of good food. It created powerful connections ... it did not just sell stuff.

And I suspect that one of the reasons that Superquinn’s new owners ran into trouble is that they lost track of the narrative, and in doing so, lost track of their customers.

Tell the story. Speak a unique language. In doing so, you can capture the shopper’s attention, imagination ... and at least a part of the shopper’s wallet. You can, in essence, open their eyes.
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