New Year’s Wish List for the Retailing Industry
By Al McClain
Building on George Anderson’s fine summary of 2003’s big stories in retailing followed by Michael
Banks’ tongue-in-cheek review of the year past, I thought I’d take a whack at a wish list for our industry. I’m sure there are many things missing, and several are unrealistic,
but isn’t that what wish lists are for?
- Retailers: Stop wasting your marketing budgets on sale ads and circulars! Really, how many times can you advertise ‘best sale of the season’ or ‘biggest one day event
ever’ before no one cares? And, those that do care are most likely to be cherry pickers anyway. How about cutting the quantity and promotion of sales in half, and using the
rest of the money to build your reputations for quality, customer service, and whatever categories you specialize in?
- Suppliers: Let’s lighten up on new products just a tad! With hundreds of choices in every major category, the consumer really doesn’t want more choices. Let’s spend
a few bucks on improving product and packaging quality, and work a little more on long term, real innovation. How many brand extensions does it take before a brand collapses
in a heap?
- Labor unions: It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that you have to add more value and streamline your work rules and benefits, unless you want the retailers
your members work for to go out of business, leaving everyone with Wal-Mart jobs, or maybe just no jobs.
- RFID: The consumer doesn’t trust our industry with this because they are smart enough to realize we wouldn’t be doing this just for their benefit. Let’s at least be
honest in the way we discuss this initiative, and work harder on a code of conduct. When people are already being arrested using their EZ Pass and cell phone records, it’s easy
enough to figure why people wouldn’t want companies tracking their purchasing and even consumption habits.
- Labeling: Every label should say who really makes a product — i.e. what company really owns Mom and Pop’ organic vegetable company. And, even better, there should
always be an 800 number for customer comments. Why not listen to your customers?
- Portion size: Let’s get realistic. If it’s a food or beverage, and the package is either convenience sized’, or anywhere close to looking like it’s designed for
one person or a single meal, it will all be consumed at one time, most of the time. Frozen dinners, cookies, candy, carry out meals, chips, soft drinks, ice cream bars, etc.
etc. are almost never going to be eaten in 2-1/2 servings, regardless of what the label says. This means, we need to reduce portions, so our consumers don’t get too heavy to
buy more of what we sell.
- Retailers: Teach your employees to say “please” and “thank you”. It’s too bad their parents didn’t do it, but we have to get over it and move on.
- Share the wealth: Employees of all kinds will work smarter and harder if they have a financial stake in the business, even if it’s a small one.
- Run your companies ethically. Most of us think we do, and hopefully most of us really do. But, it’s time to make an executive decision that we should always “do the
right thing,” regardless of Wall Street pressures, and take our lumps as they come.
- Have a wonderful year. Please. And, thank you.
Moderator’s Comment: What is your wish list for the retail industry in 2004? [Al
McClain – Moderator]