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[17 comments]

Grocer plans to chicken dance its way to the bank

August 26, 2014

At some of Lowes Foods' remodeled locations, each chicken that comes out of the rotisserie oven is celebrated by staff doing the Chicken Dance.

An automated giant chicken chandelier indicates a dance is starting. A giant chicken mascot also visits stores from time to time and joins in. The spectacle highlights the wide variety of prepared chicken offered, including wings, and fried and fresh-roasted chicken found in the "Chicken Kitchen" section.

Another highlight of the remodeled locations is SausageWorks, where shoppers interact with the "resident lunatic," formally known as the "Sausage Professor," in a laboratory-like setting. Lowes' marketing copy reads, "He's ready to entertain your family and answer all your questions about his latest and greatest creations. With waves of glorious steam rising from the grill, the Sausage Professor never stops dreaming up mind-bending, taste-bud-tantalizing sausage recipes."

SausageWorks showcases more than 20 flavors of sausage, including cheeseburger, bourbon and sweet tea varieties.

Other sections include Pick & Prep where associates dice and slice fruits or vegetables for shoppers; a Community Table for sampling and getting advice from local chefs and other experts; The Beer Den, where customers sample and learn about local draft beers; and the Cakery, where all the cakes are square and kids can blow out birthday candles.

The store is the inspiration of branding expert Martin Lindstrom, who hired writers from Walt Disney to create a storyline throughout the store. According to CNBC, Mr. Lindstrom feels stores have to play up sensory experiences and local connections since online stores are winning on price and volume.

"It's really about finding a connection with the guest. To have them come back and say, 'Oh my gosh, I had so much fun here in your store,'" Kate Allred, a store manager its Clemmons, NC-location, told CNBC

Beyond the interaction and spectacle, the renovated stores play up local — from products to recipes and décor. Checkout aisles are named for local streets.

"There are a lot of people that try to come in and say they're local, but they are owned by folks in other states," Tim Lowe, president of Lowes Foods, told the Washington Times. "They're owned by companies overseas."

The renovations — six have been done so far — have led to a 23 percent hike in transaction volume in the first half of the year, but also caused a 30 percent turnover in Lowes' executive team because of the changes, according to CNBC. The changes have also made the hiring of arts and theater majors more acceptable.

Discussion Questions:

Is having supermarket staff do the chicken dance crazy or brilliant? What can grocers and other retailers borrow from the theme-park experience?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

What grade would you give Lowes Foods for having its staff do the "chicken dance" inside a supermarket?

Comments:

Brilliant. Theater—genuine theater—is intriguing, and as long as the employees are having fun with it, contagious. 23 percent-plus in transaction volume should be a wake up call to those retail marketers still telling us Sunday circulars are the way to go.

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Bob Phibbs, President/CEO, The Retail Doctor

I am all for a theme that gets customers inside the store. Have fun, enjoy and make sure when the customers come in you greet them and make the experience fun, and they will see value added. Winner!

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Tony Orlando, Owner, Tony O's Supermarket & Catering

Kudos to Lowes. A Sense of theater is a great asset for any supermarket. Thus I think the chicken dance craze is a wonderful step forward. It's fun for store associates and customers alike. But other supermarkets can't just borrow this Lowes' magic, they must create their own. Watch out Disney. Here come the animated grocers of America—at last.

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Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

Food is theater. While that statement has played out more in restaurants than supermarkets, it appears Lowes has found a way to make it play in its supermarkets. I am sure all their competitors are envious of its 23 percent increase in transactions.

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Steve Montgomery, President, b2b Solutions, LLC

Make shopping FUN. Lowes figured it out with their chicken dance. FUN is what people just do not seem to have time for, so create FUN in the stores, within a process that eats up peoples time.

It is not just chicken dancing or wild theme park ideas—it is the mood of stores employees, smiles and a desire to entertain the shopper, from greeter to check out.

Get creative. Entertain. and send customers out the door with a smile.

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Tom Redd, Vice President, Strategic Communications, SAP Global Retail Business Unit

The retail mantra for the omni-channel age is "Differentiate or Die."

Doing the chicken dance is certainly different. But how many times does it take before the chicken dance gets old? It is interesting to note that the Sausage Professor has become the "resident lunatic." The key to ongoing success may be the need to change the scenes, actors and scripts.

Martin Lindstrom comes with great credentials and even greater experience. He's absolutely right about stores needing to leverage their ability to create experience. While the chicken dance makes the headlines, the subtle thing behind the scenes is the hiring of Disney writers to create storylines throughout the store.

Everyone has an opinion, but at the end of the day results count! A 23 percent increase in transaction volume is certainly not "chicken feed."

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Chris Petersen, PhD, President, Integrated Marketing Solutions

Several independent retailers, such as Stew Leonard's and Jungle Jim's have been proponents of in-store theater for years and they have built a very nice reputation and clientele in doing so.

While I applaud Lowes for beginning to think about the shopper experience, their success with chicken dances and other events will be dependent upon their ability to consistently update and refine their activities.

In addition, not every employee is a natural "chicken dancer," so finding the right associates in each store to lead the way, not just in activities, but also in ideation of the next shopper experience, is critical.

Kudos to Lowes for giving this a shot.

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Mark Heckman, Principal, Mark Heckman Consulting

Keeping people in the stores longer, having fun, educating them, promoting products without reducing price—is there anything to think but pure positives? Crazy and/or brilliant—the idea works!

As far as borrowing—sense of adventure, surprise, mystery, laughter and fun—versus boring, mundane, ritualistic, annoying, etc.

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David Zahn, Owner, ZAHN Consulting, LLC

Shades of Stew Leonard's. Nothing wrong with a few animatronics and costumed associates if they help shoppers past the tyranny of the last two pennies of price.

I'm glad I don't have to perform the chicken dance at work. But it's all good clean fun and probably a step up from the glum associates we too often encounter in more conventional stores.

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James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies

This is awesome! Kudos to Lowes for this one. It's all about the customer experience these days, as long as the experience trades for the right customer currency. In this case, getting their attention, getting their interaction, getting the sale and lastly, gaining their loyalty.

Lee Kent, Let's meet share and succeed in Retail, YourRetailAuthority

If the results meet with management's approval, then not sure it is up to me to judge. As a shopper, this would not influence me to purchase.

David Lubert, Industry Principal, Bridge-x Technologies

This is an innovative idea. It will make shopping more pleasurable. Just because it has never been done does not mean it shouldn't be done.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

Shopping shouldn't be a chore or a bore.

I'm glad to see Lowes revisiting their local relevance. Focusing on local adds personality and helps build a sense of community.

It seems that the trend for chains to create uniformity in their stores throughout regions and the country is starting to backfire.

At least, I hope so.

'RetailRetell'

Brilliant! The store is not the shipping and receiving dock. Customers come for the experience, entertainment and pizazz! In the 1994-95 era at the ICSC show in Vegas, the worry was that the internet would replace the shopping center and the shopping mall. You can't walk down a video tube, can't smell the smells, and you can't have the encounters online that you can experience in person.

Like chickens scratching for food, people like to "shop"—touch, feel, handle, smell, see and be seen, and discover—things that they will buy. If you lined up everything in boxes that each shopper came specifically to buy and had them drive to a dock or just ship it by courier, how much merchandise would be sold? How many new products would make it into the marketplace? I can go on and on, but there's certain things that can happen live and in person, and that's why we remodel, change up and build marketplaces like stores, shopping centers, and malls!

Fred Blanton, Pres., Blanton's International

Guess I'm the old curmudgeon on this, since it seems to have tapped into everyone's inner child (half of them, at least). Fine, let's dance. My only concern is that this might eventually supplant, rather than complement, more important things...like keeping goods in stock, competitive pricing, etc.

'notcom'

Successful entrepreneurship includes creativity, business acumen, and how to recognize a good thing when you see it. Clearly the increased sales tell the story financially. Customers are having a good time and I'm willing to bet the employees are enjoying the innovation as well.

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Joan Treistman, President, The Treistman Group LLC

Brilliant! Making shopping a fun activity will only increase the desire of shoppers to come back and do more shopping at the store!

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Kai Clarke, President, Kowa Optimed, Inc.

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