retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Newsweek has a story in which it seeks to recognize companies that it says provide some of the best customer service in the country - customer service that, for the sake of this analysis, is provided by real people.

Here’s how it frames the subject:

“The waitress who knows your coffee order; the dry cleaner who saves your favorite sweater; the bakery you visit every weekend whose manager gives your daughter an extra cookie - those aren’t merely transactions. They’re relationships. Your community.”

While “those meaningful roles are imperiled by the forces disrupting virtually every workplace in America,” Newsweek writes that “as we examined the larger, impersonal forces that are transforming retail, it seemed like a good time to recognize a more personal factor in business success: the ways in which many companies nurture their relationships with consumers."

The supermarkets that get the highest marks in the Newsweek study: Publix, ShopRite, and Trader Joe’s.

The superstores and warehouse stores: Costco, Meijer and Target.

The convenience stores: QuikTrip, Wawa and Sheetz.
KC's View:
The other day, Mrs. Content Guy and I went to Stew Leonard’s to do our food shopping; to be honest, she’s not the biggest fan of food shopping, and only went because we were out running other errands and it was on the way. (The prospect of spending time with me probably wasn’t the biggest selling point.) The experience was fine, but when we got to the checkout, the bagger was spectacular … conversational and funny and completely engaging as he packed our bags. (We talked weather and football and all sorts of other stuff.)

As we walked out, Mrs. Content Guy looked at me and said, “It is amazing how one great person can make for a great experience.”

She was playing my song.

The Newsweek story simply reinforces something that Michael Sansolo and I have been talking and writing about for years - great people can be the ultimate differential advantage. Smart retailers know that, and treat them like assets. Other retailers don’t get it, and treat their people like costs and liabilities.

Those other retailers may not be around that much longer, because they’re not giving people a reason to go to their stores at a time when bricks-and-mortar stores are increasingly threatened by their own irrelevance and the disruptive forces that surround them.