retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

There’s a simple reason for the eye openers that appear daily here on MNB. It’s a quick and easy way to point out items that merit attention for our readers even if they appear to have little to do with our business. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, you can learn a lot by keep your eyes open.

But opening our eyes can be upsetting because it means confronting realities that perhaps we wish weren’t real or would somehow go away if we keep our eyes closed.

Well, open them up or else.

Last week I had the honor of emceeing the annual Category Management Association conference and, to put it mildly, it was eye opening. Category management was never a simple topic - it challenges the industry to find a way to get the right products on the right shelves at the right prices for the right shoppers at the right moments. That’s not exactly an easy goal, which is why is still requires so much effort.

And now, like everything else in business, it’s getting even more complex. More than ever, category management requires that suppliers and retailers together use data to make better decisions. Increasingly though, those decisions are based both on data and on understanding the consumer complexities that drive decisions made for reasons both logical and illogical.

There’s nothing I love better than a great metaphor to make a point and I have to salute Andre Nadin, chief marketing office of Schnuck’s, for creating a great one that should remind us all just how drastically the current retail climate is changing.

Nadin’s metaphor came from the era when dinosaurs ruled the planet until (as scientists believe) a meteor struck the earth. In sharp order, the meteor’s collision caused enormous amounts of dust (and other matter) to darken the skies, killing off plant life, which wiped out the food supply of the large herbivores. Once they died even the predatory carnivores were doomed.

Nadin’s point was the dinosaurs were essentially the victim of incredible circumstances and likely simply noticed the sky darkening but did nothing or could do nothing (as best we know) to avoid extinction.

None of that is really a concern of industry today except, as Nadin pointed out, “the meteor has hit and it’s getting dark.” It takes very little extrapolation to realize the meteor is e-commerce.

Hardly a week goes by that we don’t see evidence of this meteor strike. Just yesterday we had an article in MNB about Sears. Once the largest retailer anywhere, Sears is now an afterthought beyond discussion of when the company will pack it up for good. (There is more evidence in yet another Sears story that is posted below.)

Nadin’s point is that unlike the dinosaurs, we have some options. More than ever, companies need to embrace changes in everything from how we use data to how we recruit, compensate and manage people. Simply getting better at what we’ve always done won’t be enough. We’ll need to find new and creative ways of staying relevant and useful.

But the first step is the simplest if possibly the most frightening. Open your eyes and recognize the world has changed. It’s getting dark out there, in here and everywhere else.

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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