business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

A number of years ago a well-known diplomat made a very undiplomatic comment about a group with which he was negotiating, that they “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

That comment could apply to marketing and merchandising events for retailers as well. There’s simply no excuse for missing an opportunity to build fun, excitement, customer experience and, let’s hope, sales and profits. Minus those events, created or otherwise, shopping really does become nothing more than a chore.

What got me focused on this was the occurrence this week of what has to be the best and most completely ridiculous celebration of the year - Pi day.

Pi day is a celebration of the mathematical constant Pi (it starts 3.14—ergo, March 14th), which is essential in determining the area of a circle.

To be honest, I, like most people, haven’t used Pi at all since my last math class back in the 1970s, but I thoroughly appreciate the co-opting of the day in honor of a great food item: pie. 

Upon entering our nearest Wegmans this weekend we ran right into (there was no avoiding it) a simple display for Pi day; basically a small table, some signs and balloons and a bunch of pies. It was so simple and yet, so effective at the same time. Yet, when I went to a second store later that day, I found a large calendar noting all the various strange celebratory days we have in March, but I didn’t encounter anything as effective or as obvious as the little table at Wegmans.

In many ways, March is a great month for building excitement. First, it’s loaded with holidays from St. Patrick’s day to Palm Sunday and Easter, and even the Jewish holidays of Purim and Passover, which both revolve around food. And, of course, there is the March Madness men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, which lend themselves to regional cuisines or even simple watch party planning. 

Pi day just adds to the possibilities.  And opportunities.

Unlike many of my columns here at MNB this one doesn’t require tortured metaphors or weird connections between current events and store operations. Marketing and merchandising are as important and as straightforward as it comes especially at a time when shoppers have a litany of reasons to feel depressed. A table of pies and a couple of balloons that can make everyone chuckle, maybe feel a little less world weary for a second and, yes, in the mood to buy.

We have constant articles here about the industry’s masters of merchandising and marketing, whether we're talking about Dorothy Lane Market or Stew Leonard's.  It is important not to lose sight of the impact and importance of simply making shopping trips and meals a little more interesting and fun.

In other words, let’s never miss an opportunity to grab an opportunity.

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 here.

And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.