retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Axios reports that a new Axios/Harris poll shows that "the public's view of almost every industry has improved since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic … Leading the index are companies that have focused on solving problems related to the coronavirus:  Grocers, including Publix, Wegmans and Kroger, are among the highest-ranking companies."

In fact, the only business sector that is ranked higher than the grocery business is the medical profession.

The poll suggests that the way in which certain industries responded to the pandemic - "with a prominent role in life under quarantine" and "focused on solving problems related to the coronavirus" - has sustained and accelerated a trend that already was taking place:  "Businesses in America were already undergoing a transformation from being solely focused on profits to also focusing on values."

The Axios story also points out that "consumer packaged goods companies that focus on cleaning and kids, like Clorox, Hersey's, Disney and Procter & Gamble Co.," as well as streaming giants like Netflix … and chain drug stores like CVS and Walgreen, all have been judged by consumers as being up to the challenges created by the pandemic.

KC's View:

There's one very interesting nugget of data from the poll that actually shows a kind of shift in consumer perception.  You'll recall that it wasn't that long ago that there were a ton of stories, here and elsewhere, about consumer mistrust of what was colloquially referred to as "big food."   But now, the Axios/Harris poll says, "81% of consumers agree that large companies, with resources, expensive infrastructure, and advanced logistics, 'are even more vital now to America's future than before the pandemic'."

Go figure.

It was several months ago that a friend of mine, a retail CEO, wrote me to suggest that "the industry's response … to the pandemic" has driven innovations that an almost dizzying pace, "from providing seniors' early store access to construction sneeze guards between cashiers and customers, to utilizing food service providers as alternative product distribution sources to new packaging and customer convenience innovations."  The pandemic, he told me, has been "equivalent to a forced incubator for new ideas to move the grocery industry even further and faster than it has moved in twenty five years to a new place, with new services, new relationships and more trust than ever with its customers."

Boy, did he get it right.

As always, though, I feel compelled to offer a caveat.  Enjoy the moment, appreciate the recognition.  Take a few minutes.  And then, figure out how the maintain the momentum, and what the next innovation will be.  How will you continue being an incubator for new ideas, new products, and new services?

Which goes back to the shift in perceptions about big companies.  They may have earned goodwill from consumers, but they have to figure out how not to squander it.

Let me remind you of something that Norman Mayne, of Dorothy Lane Markets, once told me (and that I have recounted here from time over the past two decades):  A reputation is what you have for what you did yesterday.  Today, you have to do it all over again.