For independent grocers and the wholesalers that serve them
As independent retailers we have a great opportunity today, a great advantage. We understand the necessity of running high quality perishable departments in order to compete in today’s market. But are we using this advantage to its’ fullest potential?
Increasing business in an independent supermarket can become overwhelming with the everyday task of managing today’s sales. Sometimes it seems impossible to plan beyond the next ad we are writing. Many independents fall into the trap of just fighting their competition on item price, which is what the super stores want us to fight them on. Trying to compete by price alone can be a very costly and difficult battle to win. I know that I would have a hard time convincing my customers that I have lower prices than the Wal-Mart supercenter down the road. I still have to be competitive, but I would rather focus on one of my strengths, not theirs.
Perception in business can be a very strong influence on a customer when they are deciding where to shop. We as independents can learn a lesson from our competitors like the super stores. They know that their customers perceive them as having a low price image and they emphasize this everyday. Not just in their advertising, but also in everything they do. They are constantly building on this perception. As an Independent I believe we can use perception to our advantage to increase our sales.
Independent retailers have always realized the value of running high quality perishable departments. If so many independents run good perishable departments, what makes some stand out more than others? It’s not enough to be good, we need to be outstanding.
A customer’s perception of us starts within the first few minutes of the first time they walk inside our door; they are already drawing conclusions and deciding what they believe to be our weaknesses and strengths. We have to put our best foot forward. This is our opportunity to point out to our customers what we believe are the reasons they should be shopping with us.
Most retailers’ emphasis is on the product that they sell which of course is very important, but this is what every retailer is doing. But great product combined with a couple of other items will help make us outstanding. Item one is concentrating on the friendliness and appearance of our employees. I’m not talking about hiring “Beautiful People”. What I do proclaim in rule one is to hire a friendly employee with an out-going personality. Technical ability is an asset but there are a lot of people with just the technical knowledge to do the job. Can you imagine an employee that goes out of their way to talk to your customers, an employee that you have trained technically to do their job? Employees that go out of their way to offer help to our customers, before the customer can ask the employee. Now that you have that one employee in your mind, imagine a store full of them. Most chain stores and superstores just could not compete against this.
Next is the presentation of all these great friendly employees. There are only two words to sum this up, appropriate uniforms. If you are selling the best quality product available but it doesn’t look like it was handled in a professional manor, your customers will question the product. Most retailers have confidence in the way their product is being handled and justifiably so. It’s not good enough that we know this but more important that our customers realize this as soon as they walk in our stores.
Now that we have put all this emphasis on our employees and presentation, we have to do what our competition does and emphasize this everyday. Never miss an opportunity to tell your customers what your strengths are. Don’t just rely on price points to generate business. Create something unique that can only be identified with your store and remember it must have a value to your customers. Success is the result of consistent and persistent effort. If a retailer knows they are offering their customers a great perishable shopping experience, why wouldn’t they tell their customers this in every advertisement and marketing program they do. Whether it’s a marketing program like “Help Save the Butchers” or help save the produce clerk it doesn’t matter, what matters is that we put our best foot forward.