Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Green on Display

Now I now that "green" is here to stay and that we are going to be able to make green choices across the board (and not just "green wash" or be kind of green/look green).

Why? Greneker Solutions ( now offers Soy Systems--a line of soy mannequins and forms introduced ealier this year.

Now retailers that have made a commitment to being green can choose to put their products on something green, too.

The Retail Muse

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Keeping up with the Jones

Among the many magazines from our and related industries, I enjoy flipping through Convenience Store News (published by the "other" NACS).

The October 3, 2008 issue has a Cover Story series of articles on "The Winds of Change" -- each piece addressing changes impacting the convenience store industry and how c-stores can address them.

As I've often said, there's many things that we can learn by looking to sister industries. What caught my eye? A 2/3-page inset article on how c-stores can improve their competitive position as "small box grocery stores" continue to pop up. Audience aside, the pointers offered are well suited for college stores trying to stave off competition of all sorts, as well.

The suggestions (with my commentary) were:

1. Visit new stores. Get out and shop your competition--college stores and other retailers that your customers shop. What do they stock, how do the present it, and what shopping experience are they offering?

2. Be fast followers. You don't have to be the leader of the pack--the risk taker. But you DO have to be up on what's expected and quick to adjust your products and practices.

3. Do service when you do fresh. For the c-stores this was focused on produce, etc. But their point was still relevant--do pricing and labeling right becuase it comes back to your customer as a important part of their shopping experience.

4. Get cleaner, lighter, brighter, and safer to be more female-friendly. Do I have to remind you that women spend more than men in our line of business?

5. Lead in prices on key items. This one is sometimes difficult depending on the competitor. But when you can, size up the categories that overlap with your competitor and lower margins. Resist giving away margin dollars unnecessarily in other areas, though. In our industry, there are many categories where it will NOT pay to try and be the price leader--that is, we cannot compete on price. So consider this one carefully.

6. Redefine convenience to differentiate. Not just convenience, but all aspects of your business. What needs to change in order to remain relevant, competitive, and successful?

7. See how customers accept Tesco's self-service checkouts. Tesco is integrating some new innovations into the c-store arena. The college store version of this? "Watch closely how e-readers, online sales, digital course materials, and other innovations playout and continue to stay educated and ready to adjust your business as needed."

Good ideas from a sister industry that's facing some tough competition. And I'll leave you with their final thought in this nice little piece:

"...stick close to your core consumers and core capabilities."

The Retail Muse

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Hot Top Retailers

The National Retail Federation (NRF) unleashed a Hot 100 Retailers report in its August 2008 issue. If I'd not been travel so much the last few months, I'd have shared some of this juice with you earlier!

The Tweens and Teens segment sales rose more than 13% in 2007--some due to store openings rather than operations or acquisitions. Most of the top spots in this category were occupied by usual suspects: Urban Outfitters (2), Aeropostale (3), The Buckle (4), Abercrombie & Fitch (6), and American Eagle Outfitters (7). The top spot went to a name that might be new to you and worth checking out: Zumiez. This mall-based skate/snow outfitter is online at and is sure to be setting some fashion trends in the skater genre and with those that want follow this popular look.

Obviously I share these retailers to urge you to check them out. See what they are selling, how they are merchandising, and what they offer in both store and online experience.

Other notables from the report include:
- American Apparel went from a 2006 loss to a healthy level of earnings in 2007. This was mostly a bookkeeping fix. The company actually had a 35.8% sales gain in 2007--maintaining its outlaw image and near-soft-porn promo angle.
- GameStop has seen a 285% revenue growth from 2004 to 2007. Note to college stores--gaming is STILL HOT!
- In the Sandwich/Beverage category, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread topped the list with 31.9 and 28.7% sales growth respectively. Read--consumers like quality, choice, personalized/customized products, and healthy eating.

Finally, it's worth noting the #1 retailer on the NRF list of Hot 100 Retailers--CVS. Yes, that corner drug store that some swear is in a race with Walgreens to overtake the entire planet! If you've not been in a CVS lately, check one out. If you can find a new concept store, even better. This retailer is turning the corner drug store into one of the fastest, easiest, and profitable shopping experiences around.

All for now!

--The Retail Muse