PROFILE

Mark Heckman

Principal, Mark Heckman Consulting
Mark is a supermarket industry veteran with broad experience based in a mix of retail marketing, brand partnerships, category management practices and consumer research. Over his career, Mark has worked with noted organizations in the supermarket industry to include positions of Director of Marketing Research at Marsh Supermarkets, VP of Marketing for Randalls Foods, MARC Advertising, and Valassis Relationship Marketing Systems. In 1993, Mark led the analysis team at Marsh that composed and presented the Marsh Super Study, which was published by Progressive Grocer Magazine and later became a case study at the Harvard School of Business.

In 2006 to 2011, Mark returned to Marsh Supermarkets to lead the marketing efforts at the Midwestern chain as Vice President of Marketing, following Sun Capital's purchase of the company. Upon completion of his duties at Marsh, Mark returned to his consulting practice where he currently works with retailers, marketing services and technology companies to develop sucessful programs and partnerships.

Mark is a past member and chairman of the Food Marketing Institute's Consumer Research Committee as well participating in the recent Retail Shopper Marketing Commission founded by Coca Cola and the In-store Marketing Institute.  Mark is a graduate of the Indiana University Kelley School of Business with a BS in Marketing and was honor graduate of the Defense Language Institute, at the Presidio of Monterey, CA. Mark currently resides in Bradenton, FL with his wife Karyn.

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  • Posted on: 08/23/2016

    Will third time be the charm as grocer changes loyalty program again?

    It appears that Woolworths' recent false starts with their loyalty program structure has more to do with their own internal financial issues than negative feedback from their shoppers. Loyalty programs in the food sector in general are under pressure to be worth the bother, given the plethora of programs in the marketplace and the heightened expectations shoppers have of such initiatives.Air miles can be a powerful secondary currency if the carrier is dominant in terms of flights in the retailer's trading areas and has a reasonable miles-to-free-flight conversion rate. However, carrying un-redeemed points or air miles on the retailer's P&L can become a detriment to profitability without a consistent and corresponding lift in sales. To that end, many of these continuity programs begin with promising results but eventually become a financial burden to the retailer without evidence of incremental sales.If I were Woolworths, I would go back to basics. Providing immediate gratification without multiple steps, secondary loyalty partners or messy redemption models, blending their merchandising promotions and pricing with their loyalty rewards so that the shopper realizes real value in real-time.
  • Posted on: 08/22/2016

    Will drop shipments become a major online fulfillment tool?

    As a retailer, I would generally be cautious about abdicating the responsibility of delivery to the supplier. I would also be concerned about suppliers becoming too proficient at interacting directly with my customers, given the opportunity for the supplier to eventually set its designs on leaving the retailer out of the loop.On the other hand, if the retailer can devise a system to selectively drop ship certain products and commodities that currently consume heavy inventory holding costs and retain the key relationship with the customer, drop shipping could be part of the ultimate solution retailers are looking for as they down-size their footprints and in-store inventories.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2016

    Is Walmart on a roll?

    Good retail performance is always about flexibility and adaption to competitive and marketplace threats. While Walmart has some fundamental long-term issues to wrestle with, their reactions in terms of store closures and price reductions appear to have righted the ship in the near-term.Longer pull, dealing with the acquisition of Jet.com, heavy store inventories and continued pressure from other price operators will create challenges that will continue to plague Walmart. Time will tell if they are up to the task.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2016

    Is Walmart passing its crime buck to local governments?

    I find this whole discussion a bit disturbing, but sadly not surprising. It's not "Walmart's crime" it is the communities's crime. Believe it or not, Walmart pays taxes and lots of them to cover police, fire and other services. If Walmart ceased to exist tomorrow, the crime and those perpetrating it would not vanish with it, but just migrate to other retailers where the opportunity for crime presents itself. Who would pay for the "crime" then?While it's always cathartic for its critics to beat up on Walmart and blame them for everything from income inequality to union busting, the fact remains that without Walmart and their ascension to the number one retailer in the world, many items that shoppers in their communities buy on a regular basis would cost considerably more. That would also hold true for the police, firefighters, EMTs and other public servants.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2016

    Kroger pushes its tech advantage

    Kroger has been operating in the rarified air of growth and profitability for a record number of financial reporting cycles. Much of their past success can be tracked to their penchant for technology and progressive solutions, whether they be for labor scheduling, pricing strategies or providing customer-centric content to their frequent shoppers.Going forward, predictive analysis and other companion intellectual property resources will help them determine optimal variety, selection, omnichannel communications and store design as they face the same issues that other brick-and-mortar retailers must deal with. These issues range from right-sizing their stores and their offerings to updating their customer touch points as the consumer changes their priorities and expectations. Kroger will no doubt handle these issues much more empirically and accurately than their less-equipped competitors.
  • Posted on: 08/05/2016

    Why is Target making nice with Amazon?

    As an addendum to Herb's remarks, I also believe Target understands that ultimately the "elite" retailers will be dominant both online and in physical stores. With the recent announcement of Walmart possibly joining forces with Jet.com, Target is likely choosing their dance partner for the new competitive marketplace.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2016

    Will Target and Harry’s make for a perfect retail partnership?

    This works well for both brands. Target typically indexes lower among men and carrying Harry's razors provides a new reason to consider Target over Walmart, Meijer, Walgreen, CVS and other retailers. For Harry's it provides a well established brick-and-mortar retailer with over 1700 locations to dramatically expand their market exposure.Longer-term, for Target, being a distribution extension for other compatible, well known online-only brands could be a bright spot for them as they struggle somewhat in their re-positioning efforts.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2016

    Walmart’s CMO talks time, money and message

    Equating convenience with a mega-Supercenter is a tough sell. Walmart will need to get very shopper-centric with its store design, layouts, product adjacencies and technologies to pull off touting Walmart as a time saver.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2016

    Will 365 concept prove to be the future of Whole Foods?

    On a macro level, the early success of 365 underscores the need for all retailers to be constantly re-thinking their formats, their operations and offerings. Specifically, it would appear that Whole Foods has found a niche that is more receptive to a broader segment of shoppers, i.e., that are more price conscious, but yet still value an up-market shopping environment.Building off of David Livingston's comments, from the retailer's side of things there is no doubt that a less service-intensive store is easier to staff and operate, therefore more scalable. The question still remains as to how large the 365 niche is, and how their competitors will react to regain lost business.
  • Posted on: 07/28/2016

    Is it time for marketers to embrace radical transparency?

    If you have a great story to tell, it is usually good marketing to tell it. The shoppers that will find this marketing approach as a refreshing point of difference are also likely to be voters who are in the process of rebelling from traditional politics, which is certainly on an upward trend these days.However, I doubt if most larger retailers would be in position to be proud or boastful of their true cost/profit structure to the extent they would embrace using it as a marketing ploy. As an alternative from announcing actual costs and detailed processes, larger retailers can (and some are) tout their efficiencies and sourcing practices that save their shoppers money or improve the shopping experience but not expressed in monetary terms.My sense is that being monetarily transparent is a play that may accommodate a few smaller retailers, while larger retailers can apply a derivative of this approach to talk about their brand in more general terms.
  • Posted on: 07/19/2016

    What does it take to compete in an off-price retail world?

    Ron makes an excellent point. When lower-priced outlets become the norm for the majority of the shopper base, then it becomes imperative for those that chose to compete on service, variety and shopping experience to invest in technology and associate training or they will likely not have an adequate value proposition to survive in a shrinking market environment.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2016

    What’s creating the pricing disconnects between retailers and vendors?

    In grocery retailing, price reduction through promotion continues to be the preferred focus as it continues to be the best short-term catalyst for case movement. However, supplier/brand funds are slowly continuing to transition away from straight case discounts to deals contingent upon access to shopper data and new customer touchpoint technologies.Accordingly, those suppliers/brands that are in the position to take the longer view of their business with their key retailers are smart to spend money on developing deeper marketing relationships with their retailers and their shoppers as opposed to diluting the value of their products by constantly promoting them and merely training the shopper to wait until a deal occurs before making the purchase.
  • Posted on: 06/03/2016

    Getting past retail’s gatekeepers

    Having the great pleasure of being on both sides of the retailer/supplier conversation, I do think that some of the decision making on the retailer side of things has been de-centralized to some extent. But much of the decision making ability still very much depends on budget limitations and the extent that the solution involves multiple departments or silos at the retailer. For example, if a solution presented to a category manager requires access to household-level results and reports that originate in the marketing department, a quick decision can be elusive. If the solution requires any involvement or blessing from the retailer's IT department, weeks, if not months may be added to the decision-making process.Despite new positions, players and process at the retailer, the key to getting quick decisions still remains in understanding what keeps the retailer up at night and the criteria by which the retailer makes decisions. Obtaining a list of the retailer's priorities and their financial hurdle rates, etc., and referencing your solution or program to that list increases the chances of getting a yes enormously.
  • Posted on: 06/02/2016

    Will Target find its identity with a department store layout?

    It would seem that Target is throwing many things at the wall right now in hopes that one or more of them actually stick. While there is nothing inherently wrong with emulating a department store look in apparel, cosmetics and other appropriate categories, this move hardly seems a solution to their core problems.Out of stocks, operational efficacy, a cogent category by category variety strategy, and in-store merchandising are the glaring issues that have plagued Target for a number of years. Unlike some of the more superficial changes we currently see Target embracing, each of the issues that I cite are more complex and require significant executional muscle at the store level. Until they are addressed, all the mannequins on 5th Avenue are not going to change Target's financial results.
  • Posted on: 05/27/2016

    Should Sears sell its Craftsman, DieHard and Kenmore brands?

    I realize I represent the dissenting opinion on Sears, but I believe there is still hope to revive the retail brand through smaller, smarter stores. In addition, a laser focus on leveraging the existing cache in their well known brands, Craftsman, Kenmore and DieHard, is critical. I would also recommend reviving their service commitments as well as building an expert reputation among their stores and online associates.Competitors abound, but Best Buy, Lowe's, Home Depot, hhgregg, Fry's and others all require the shopper to navigate through big footprints and finding someone that even knows how to plug something in is a challenge, despite concerted efforts at these big box stores to improve the expertise of their associates.

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