retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Between new competition, stunning technological leaps and rapidly changing consumer desires you might be thinking: isn’t that enough? Well, apparently nothing is enough anymore.

Regular MNB readers have no doubt been following the insightful and mostly well-meaning conversation on this site surrounding gun sales. No matter how you feel about the issue, I hope you’ve been paying attention because like it or not, hot-button issues are likely to matter to you and your company sooner rather than later.

The Washington Post had an interesting article this weekend examining the emerging trend of “buycotts” (and yes, that is spelled correctly). A buycott is the opposite of a boycott. In one case people studiously avoid a product or company they want to punish. In the other, they reward them.

Currently you see that playing out between those who now avoid stores like Dick’s at all costs because of their new policy on gun sales. At the same time, others are making extra trips to Dick’s, Walmart, Patagonia or REI to support the political stands they are taking. Just a few years ago, the same took place when social conservatives rushed to Chick-fil-A to demonstrate their support for traditional marriage.

The Post article detailed two important points. First, thanks to the continued growth of social media it is easier than ever for shoppers to track and share information about companies and to therefore profile their political and social positions. Second, a Georgetown University professor explained that since people like buying things, the notion of shopping to support a cause is more attractive than any boycott.

Oh yes, the Post also found that the trend of cause-informed shopping is growing. This isn’t going away.

Just like that, you have acquired an entirely new headache, but that’s always the essence of business success. The best always survive - even thrive - by overcoming the new challenges and complexities.

And this will be complex. Sunday’s New York Times featured an interview with chef Jose Andres who recently spent months in Puerto Rico cooking meals for thousands on the storm-ravaged islands. Andres also made the news in 2015 when he cancelled plans to open a restaurant in one of Donald Trump’s new hotels in response to comments the then-candidate made about Mexicans. Asked about whether that was a business or moral decision, Andres offered an incredible insight to the future.

“It was a business decision. But all the good business decisions in the 21st century are smart moral decisions,” he said.

If that’s the case, life isn’t going to get simpler anytime soon and frankly, I wish there were some easy guidance to offer on this topic. But the reality is that we all have differences of opinions on countless things. Somehow, that is going to be something we’ll need to communicate better than ever to our shoppers, staffers and communities.

Personally, I’m hoping that common sense will remind us that eating a really good chicken sandwich with a side of waffle cut fries isn’t always a political statement. Sometimes it’s just lunch.

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 on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
KC's View: