retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

The frantic pace of news in the industry of late quite naturally has us all focused on change, but the reality is that most shoppers likely don’t share our concerns. All they want is to do their shopping, get the best products at the best price, and experience as little hassle as possible.

After all, while this is an enormous and extremely complex industry, it’s also a main street business serving communities and shoppers with the basic needs of life. The best companies, it always seems, manage to understand and excel at both parts of that spectrum.

And that’s why it might be worth keeping a careful eye on Lidl for both the stores the German retailer has started opening and for the clear way they are communicating with shoppers. There’s no way of knowing whether this new invader will succeed where others have failed, but the first steps already look promising.

I had a chance to visit my first stateside Lidl last week in Culpepper, Virginia, and like many others I was favorably impressed with what I saw. The store is clean, modern and welcoming. The price image is clear and heavily reinforced, but so are critical elements of customer delight from the bakery at the front of the store to the seasonal products in the “surprise” section.

What really gave me pause, though, was the handy and consumer-friendly magazine handed out in the store. I’m no expert, but if this summer edition is any indication, Lidl has a good sense of how to talk to shoppers. I know it spoke to me.

The articles are simple and helpful. There are basic shopping and cooking tips such as:

• How to pack a shopping bag like a pro;
• Great reasons to bring your own shopping bag;
• Cooking tips for beef, pork and chicken;
• Ideas for throwing a great summer barbecue targeting both city and country dwellers.

Another section offers “Lidl Life Hacks” with simple explanations on easy ways to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer; how to best load and unload a dishwasher; and another on how to organize a pantry. Easy recipes and shopping list ideas are included.

Still other articles help shoppers meet the new company with explanations on how stores are laid out, how and why specific products are purchased and offered; and insights from company experts on issues like how to select wine, and a chance to meet local growers.

Heck, there was even a section explaining labels for organics, GMO-free, fair trade and more all in clear language.

In other words the magazine featured a collection of useful and useable information that positions Lidl in a friendly, approachable way. Obviously none of this is exactly new or unique information, but think of what it does for Lidl’s target shoppers.

While service in the store is limited - remember, this is a deep discount store - a customer can still get tools from Lidl to enhance the shopping trip and make the shoppers’ food dollar work harder. No doubt Lidl feels that kind of information may give shoppers another reason to see the retailer as helping solve problems.

And in turn, that may Lidl build a loyal shopper base. The table stakes for successful retailing seem to have just gone up yet again.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.

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