business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

It’s a business maxim that probably all of us have heard: dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

In other words, aspire!

It’s a bit of advice that even the smallest companies need to think about these days, especially as we see constant stories of the mega companies like Walmart, Albertsons and Kroger lining up unusual partners to deal with future issues. The reality is that Microsoft and others aren’t lining up to partner with a group of two-store operators to create futuristic stores, but that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t aspire.

Or certainly keep your eyes on what the big guys are doing because it is going to matter to you.

A friend who happens to be a New Jersey-based independent operator sent me a link recently to an article in Ohio’s Dayton Daily News detailing comments from Kroger’s CEO, Rodney McMullen, and his vision of a technologically enabled future. As my friend said, “I like to keep an eye on what Kroger is doing.”

Now think about that for a moment. First, Kroger doesn’t have a division in New Jersey and second, there is little that Kroger is doing that my friend can mimic. But he’s absolutely right to gaze in Kroger’s direction.

All operators, no matter what their size or operating realities, need to keep an eye on Kroger, Walmart, Amazon, Aldi and more, including many companies that don’t run supermarkets such as Disney, Netflix and Apple. Because what those companies are doing - and sometimes, even the mistakes they are making - will impact shoppers’ experiences and expectations going forward.

So sure, you may never pilot a cutting edge, technology-laden store like Microsoft is trying to do with Kroger or Albertsons, but you had better keep an eye on that. Because what those two companies do together might change what retail is going to look like in the very near future.

Happily, I have promising news to report on this front. I have the pleasant duty annually of hosting the Creative Choice awards for outstanding marketing and merchandising at the National Grocers Association (NGA) convention, taking place in San Diego at the end of February. Thanks to the help of a fantastic group of volunteer judges, we have just completed a review of the 500-plus entries and in those numbers there is wonderful news.

First, continuing a trend in recent years, the number of entries has never been larger and more importantly, the caliber of those entries have vastly improved as well. I won’t give away any details or the identity of winners here because I want a huge audience at the event in San Diego. But I can disclose this: based on those entries independent operators of all sizes are aspiring and succeeding at doing better.

The entries showed great examples of creativity in every department of the store. We also saw great examples of independents aggressively using social media and other technologies including homegrown apps to connect with shoppers, to authenticate their messaging and to engage shoppers with greater experiences than ever.

What’s so encouraging about this competition is none of the companies involved have the resources of a Kroger or Walmart, but they demonstrate how to produce great results with modest means. It strikes me that such thinking will be more necessary than ever in years to come.

It is critical not to run your store for the shoppers you used to have, but rather for the shoppers you wish to have.

It is a six step process…

Aspire. Experiment. Innovate. Implement. Evaluate. Repeat. (Quickly.)

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.
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