retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Never miss an opportunity to focus on what’s really important in life or business. That’s why every year around this time I find myself writing about the exact same thing.

I repeat it because I firmly believe the end of September provides a great opportunity to open up an important discussion that needs be held inside your company again and again.

The anniversary is a dark one: the global economic collapse of 2008. By now you’ve probably seen or read about some of the key five-year anniversaries. About how on Sept. 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers failed and that failure seemed to be the spark that ignited a global economic fire.

In reality, you aren’t done with the anniversaries yet because in 2008 Lehman’s collapse wasn’t the end of the news. In fact, the stock market trembled after the 15th, but kept rallying for a few days until plunging in October. You may remember the uncertainty, the fears and the endless bad news.

Yet that isn’t the desired lesson. Rather, it is this: ask yourself and ask throughout your company, “What are we doing differently today than we were in August 2008 and in every year since? How are we providing value to customers whose lives were changed permanently by those events?”

Hopefully the answers will flow.

The sad truth is that while some of the economic damage from that summer and fall has healed - consider the stock market for example - much of it hasn’t. Economic worries, unemployment and underemployment remain too high, while optimism remains low.

Just last week we saw a flurry of reports on the economic health of Americans that should also give you pause. On top of all the recent reports of ongoing softness in housing or poor prospects for the retirement of the Boomer generation, we continue to see stagnation in wages for most of the population. Other studies highlight the growing economic anxiety felt by many, including those whose paychecks are fairly good and stable.

Certainly we've seen the broader debate play out here on MNB, with continued back-and-forth about the issue of wage disparity.

For the food industry none of this discussion is remotely about politics, even though politicians are quick to point fingers and offer up simple and simple-minded solutions. For the food industry it’s about the facts of life.

More than any other part of the economy, the food industry is front and center in the economic problems facing Americans. Food is, after all, their most basic need and shopping for food is likely their most regular economic activity. So every worry that impacts shoppers heading off to the supermarket demands the constant attention of the entire industry.

That’s why the discussion of what you and your company are doing better today matters so much because only that way can you meet the needs of these shoppers. Yes they want food that tastes good and is good for them, and they want food that is interesting to eat and delights their families.

But they also want sharp prices and good values, however it is they may define the word value.

So that’s why this anniversary of economic collapse is so important. It’s a great cause for reflection and discussion to make sure that you and your company are doing everything possible to meet the needs of your community and customers.

After all if you don’t reflect and evolve, someone else might. Don’t waste this moment to have that discussion.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
KC's View: