If you have been watching the Olympic Games in London, your eyes have been trained on peak performances taking place in world class venues. Watching such great swimmers as Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin perform at the Olympic Park Aquatic Centre has been a real treat. While worldwide television audiences tune in to watch these compelling races, they also see an important element, but rarely give it any thought.
A small company in Ohio is responsible for making the racing lanes being used in London. In fact, they have supplied the lanes to nine different Olympics starting with the 1968 Mexico City games. It is interesting to note that these lanes are designed to not only divide the pool, but also help to quell the wave created by the swimmers.
There is a strong parallel that can be drawn between these racing lanes and the services provided by the members of NARMS. Everyone who walks into a Target or a Kroger store sees what the members of the at-retail merchandising and marketing service industry do, but rarely notice it. They are the invisible visible force at retail.
Visible in that the results of high quality, professional in-store execution of sales building promotion and operational initiatives are immediately noticed by the shopper, the store manager and the brand. Invisible because the purveyors of this are really only noticed if these activities do not happen or if something goes wrong.
Our activities have always been important, but may be even more important now that a missed step can be picked up on by consumers on social media and can create a wave that can damage brand and market share. The members of NARMS have been dividing the lanes and calming the waves at retail for years.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) has released their Hot 100 Retailers list that can be viewed in the August edition of Stores Magazine. The story features a link to a sortable chart of retail companies that reported the greatest increase in domestic sales between 2010 and 2011.
As with most ranking lists, some strong trends did emerge. The drivers for the companies who made this annual list appear to be organic food, high-end trendy fashions and e-commerce enhanced by mobile technologies.
Sprouts Farmers Market takes the number one spot and underscores the importance of organic foods in food retailing. There are 20 supermarket chains that made the chart including Lowe’s Market Place, Kroger, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Publix and H-E-B.
Upscale, high-end fashion chains took up three spots in the top 10 lead by Michael Kors at number three and followed by Lululemon Athletica and Under Armour. The common denominator among the three is an ability to create a brand image that is not dependent on price promotion.
Four retailers in the top 10 fall into the mobile technology and e-commerce camp. Verizon Wireless comes in at number two on the list, Apple is at number nine and AT&T is at number 10. Amazon, who sells a wide variety of technology and content, is number seven on the list.
The Stores Hot 100 retailer list from NRF makes a great tool for members of the at-retail merchandising and marketing service industry who provide the kind of in-store support that help these companies grow. To dig deeper into the list, click here.
As documented by Supermarket News, Kantar Retail has recently released the 15th Annual PowerRanking Report. The report annually lists the best manufacturer and retailers. An important aspect of this report is that these rankings represent how trading partners see each other. In doing so, trends of the most successful brands in retailing are identified. Kantar Retail uses the QR Code as a theme for the report, but quickly points out that Quick Response is more than just a scanned link to more information. It is a metaphorical link to successful alignment and integration between the very best trading partners.
As a clever marketing tie-in, the cover of the PowerRanking Executive Summary features a QR Code that when scanned by a smart phone or mobile device brings you to a narrative welcome video. The report itself is on sale once you arrive, although the Executive Summary is complimentary.
The Supermarket News story does a good job of summarizing and top lining the report for those who want a quick glance at the information. P&G, Kraft, General Mills, PepsiCo and Unilever rank near the top of the list among CPG manufacturers. Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Costco, Publix, Wegmens, H-E-B, CVS, Walgreens and Safeway make up the top ten among retailers.
We now see QR Codes all over the retail environment as well as other aspects of our daily living, and are likely to see more in the near future. It is predictable that their use will become a necessity. But the concept of Quick Response is perhaps more important than the technology behind it. It is evident in the Kantar Retail PowerRanking Report that responsiveness and collaboration among trading partners is vital to success at retail and is the common denominator connecting those at the top of the list.
Add one more trading partner to the mix. The members of NARMS are important in delivering on the promise of Quick Response. Professional at-retail merchandising and marketing companies can be the conduit in which responsiveness between retailers and suppliers is delivered.
What if you could take a look into the new store and remodel plans and trends for five major grocery chains in one convenient place. A recent Supermarket News Webinar – Maximizing Cap-Ex Returns - did just that. Editor Mark Hamstra hosted the event that featured a section entitled Trends in Capital Spending for U.S. Supermarkets. The section was lead by Andrew Wolf, the Managing Director of BB&T Capital Markets. Capital Expenditures or Cap-Ex is the place in the annual budget where retailers plan for new store growth, remodel of existing space and technological investments.
Wolf made three major points during his address. First, Cap-Ex is driven by and follows sales. Second, Cap-Ex spending is down significantly among the five chains he examined. Third, Cap-Ex is below trend when looking at the past ten years. The chains he studied where Kroger, Safeway, Whole Foods, Publix and Supervalu.
According to the BB&T research, the average Cap-Ex expenditure among the five chains in 2010 was 2.4% of sales. That is down sharply from an average of 3.0% in 2009. Not coincidentally, the NARMS PIC study published in early 2010 - Continuing to Build Out the Future of Retail – put the 2009 number at 3.35% across all retail channels.
In general, during the last two years sales have been either negative or flat and the square footage of the studied retailers has followed. Penetration by consumers has been great for grocery throughout a ten year period, but the number of trips per year has shrunk from 72 to 57. Channel blurring is thought to be the culprit.
More of the Cap-Ex dollar is going toward technological investment with closer to 40% of Cap-Ex going there rather than new store and remodel. That is up significantly from the 0% that was seen during the last five years. These numbers also match closely with the PIC Study.
Wolf also showed a dramatic shift toward remodel and away from news stores in his research. This also corroborates findings in the PIC Study that showed remodel related spending at 21% of Cap-Ex in 2006 vs. 38% in 2010. As a reminder, the PIC study looked at a much broader set of data in terms of number of chains and channels.
While these numbers and trends may be seen as troubling to at-retail merchandising and marketing service companies, the fact that remodel and technological spending is up represents a great opportunity. Some of that technology spending is being directed at self-service vending machines which could present installation and service opportunities.
Supermarket News recently held their 2011 SN Analysts Roundtable and the takeaways were not encouraging for CPG companies, retailers or consumers. The roundtable is an annual event that has been staged by the trade publication for 16 straight years. The story, by Elliot Zwiebach, includes the full text of the discussions with each panelist. Inflation and a sluggish economy are seen as the culprits for the pessimism.
Some of the analysts believe that we will see food inflation of 5-8% at the end of 2011 leading into a very tough 2012. They believe that rationality has kept things in check so far this year, but may not be enough to sustain the recovery. High rates of unemployment are seen to be getting worse causing more trade down. Enhanced uncertainty could eventually wear down that rational behavior.
Passing along costs to the consumer may not work as a remedy for trading partners. So far, the recovery had seen the middle class purchasing less. That is a new dynamic for our economy and has damaged the retail industry. The use of private label as an incentive to keep prices down has worked to some degree, but some of the analysts see that pace slowing.
It is difficult to predict who might break the mold. The analysts disagree on who is in a better position to come out on top. Some believe that giants like Wal-Mart and Kroger are best suited to withstand industry pressure because they can invest selectively in price.
It is no fun to read bad news about the supermarket industry because that is where many members of NARMS, professional at-retail merchandising and marketing service companies, operate every day. What is encouraging is that manufacturers and retailers are looking for answers. In tough economic times, store staffs shrink even as in-store promotion grows. A third-party provider offers the best solution to execute shelf and aisle level activities that are proven to augment sales and support brand building initiatives. Take a few moments out of your busy day to read and digest what this expert roundtable is telling us about the supermarket industry. You can link to the story by clicking here.
Below is the list of articles you will find for the week ending 6/24/11 edition of Retail Industry News.
- Walmart’s Chicago Expansion And Express Plans Coalesce
- Drinking A Toast To Own Brand Success
- Fresh Fruits And Veggies Take The Bus To The Inner City
- Private Equity Groups Look To Buy BJ’s
- Sansolo Speaks: Family Ties
- Whole Foods Lays Out Expansion Plans
- Kroger Releases Sustainability Report
- Publix To Enter Knoxville
- The MNB Wal-Mart Watch
- Executive Suite
Reports of economic recovery have been consistently inconsistent as optimistic numbers are offset by news of closings, bankruptcies and forecasts of tougher times ahead. The retail sector, specifically food retailing, offered another sign of hope this week as Supermarket News released its Annual Top 75 Retailers for 2011. The largest food retailers in the country saw some impressive gains in 2010.
Although holding the industry up against the low point of 2009 makes for some easy comparisons in terms of sales gains, it is hard to argue with the direction being shown by the food industry giants. According to the SN report, sales among this group rose 7.7% during 2010. Revenues among food and non-food merchandise reached to $960 billion mark versus the $894 billion in 2009. These numbers appear to be top-heavy as the top ten on this list comprise 69% or $666 billion of the entire group volume, which is up slightly from the year earlier. The sales gains reported by the top ten rose 2.2%.
In terms of rank, there was little movement from the year before as Wal-Mart sits comfortably at the top of the list. Kroger is still number two, but number three Costco is closing the gap. Safeway has passed Supervalu for the number four spot with the rest of the top ten unchanged.
You can click here to read the Supermarket News story and see the list for yourself. For members of NARMS, professional at-retail merchandising and marketing service companies, it is important to keep an eye on all these metrics as a means of sniffing out new business opportunities, making strategic operational decisions and planning ahead for hiring with new job listings. Stay tuned to this column, the Top Shelf blog which appears on Tuesdays and www.narms.com as we keep you abreast of key industry findings and thought leadership. If you have not already done so, make sure to renew your membership so you do not lose access to these helpful streams of information.
Just as consumers are doing on-line research to make buying decisions before visiting the store, manufacturers are using web-based virtual shopping as a method for shopper marketing research. Join us on Tuesday, September 22 at 1:00 p.m. CDT for - Virtual Shopping Platforms - the next installment of the NARMS Webinar Series. Guest retail experts John Karolefski and Walter Haug will lead us through the hour long event as we explore this emerging method that is being adopted by leading companies. The NARMS Webinar series is sponsored by Natural Insight and brought to you through the technology of NARMS Associate Member ReadyTalk.
Virtual store tests provide a faster, more cost-efficient alternative to in-store tests and deliver a more accurate representation of at-shelf shopping behaviors than traditional methods of consumer research. Several leading manufacturers have leveraged virtual shopping to make recommendations for optimizing product assortments and for implementing new shelf sets and aisle configurations. They have later implemented these recommendations for retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, and 7-Eleven.
John Karolefski is an authority on consumer packaged goods marketing and technology. He founded CPGmatters.com to keep manufacturers up to date on changes in the industry. He is the co-author of three books, “TARGET 2000: the Rising Tide of TechnoMarketing,” which tracks the convergence of marketing and technology in the retail and CPG industry, and “All About Sampling,” written for the Promotion Marketing Association (PMA). Karolefski’s latest book is entitled “Consumer-Centric Category Management.”
Walter Haug is a classically trained marketer with more than fifteen years of progressive experience building businesses and brands, having held senior marketing positions at Lysol, Fujifilm and Pinnacle Foods. He led the Marketing and Customer Marketing functions at ACCO Brands through the turnaround of the Wilson Jones Bindery Brand. As VP Client Service for Decision Insight, Haug brings formidable research capabilities and a consultative, actionable approach in order to help clients build shopper insights that will win in the marketplace.
Through this webinar, you will learn why a virtual shopping platform will change the status quo. When and why would someone use a virtual shopping methodology? How can virtual shopping research optimize product assortments and change shelf sets and aisle configurations? What unique aspects need to be considered when evaluating findings from a virtual shopping study?
For the answers to these questions and more, click here to register to attend the hour-long event. You will find the NARMS Webinar series time well spent and a compelling value added benefit of your membership.
While perusing the pages of Progressive Grocer, well the electronic version anyway, I came across a bit of information that hit me like a shiny new bicycle on Christmas morning. A research group called IHL has released a study called, “What’s the Deal with Out-of-Stocks,” which examines why retailers lose sales to consumers who want to spend money at their stores. Add this study to your deck of information exhibiting issues that can be solved by the professional at-retail marketing and merchandising companies that make up the membership of NARMS.
As if the economy isn’t bad enough, the study tells us that retailers are losing the sale of at least one item to as many as 20% of the customers who visit their stores. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. IHL notes that the negative shopping experience may drive the consumer away from the store entirely. With as much information as we have on out-of-stocks, it appears that the message is not getting through, or rather not getting executed.
The story says that consumers are coming to the store with money that they have budgeted to spend and leave without spending it because they can’t find an item, can’t get access to a locked item, or can’t get help to get an item that is not on the shelf, but may be in-stock. Because of the problem, 9% of polled consumers said they have stopped shopping at one or more stores in the last 12 months.
To further illustrate the lost opportunity, Consumer Electronic stores are losing $1.35 for every customer that comes in the store due to the level of out-of-stocks. Warehouse clubs lose $1.78 and grocery stores 68 cents in sales for every customer that can’t find the product or a replacement. The differences in the losses per channel are caused by the merchandising mix and average transaction of the store. If you multiply $1.35 times the number of consumers that come though the store during a day, week or month, the cost of an hour service call here or there to recover the loss seems like pretty good return-on-investment.
The study is available for a fee at www.ihlservices.com. There are also some free preview summary pages available. The study goes into specifics of OOS performances at Wal-Mart, Kroger, Best Buy, Circuit City , Costco, Albertsons, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and others in the food/grocery, home improvement, or electronics channels. This information, and other similar afforts available in the NARMS InfoShare Library, is a gift in our efforts to demonstrate value and be part of the solution.