Future Forces: A new breed of retailer

Think about the possibilities of combining the best traits of two retailers.

By Patrick Kiernan

By now you may be living with one of the new hybrid dogs challenging traditional purebred pets. Hybrids with names such as Goldendoodle, Cockapoo and, my favorite, Schnoodle (Schnauzer and poodle) are now becoming more popular for their family-friendly temperaments, sizes and special traits such as reduced shedding.

So for summer fun, let us think of the best traits of any two retailers—not just grocers—that we might combine to create new family-friendly shopping occasions.

My first thought was to save the storied and iconic brand of A&P, now in bankruptcy, by combining it with Wegmans. A&P would get a service culture that it has been long missing, along with Wegmans’ image of being the best place to work and employees with a can-do attitude. Wegmans would get legacy locations in New York and New Jersey and manufacturing capacity to grow its wonderful brands. We can all think of large retailers—Albertsons, Winn-Dixie and Bi-Lo, to name a few—that stopped being relevant long ago and are now rebuilding under new ownership.

If we could combine the best of hotels with a grocery retailer, which companies would you combine? My choice would be to combine Marriott with Safeway. Marriott offers choice with more than 18 brands, from the Ritz-Carlton to Executive Apartments to value when you just need a good bed and a fast breakfast. Marriott’s Courtyard brand was one of the few retailers to be recognized by The Business Journal survey as one of the nation’s leading brands. Safeway could learn to provide shopping occasion choices through multiple formats similar to what Walmart and Kroger now offer. Marriott could get an education on how to improve its own branded label food products plus organics and natural offerings. Moreover, Marriott could learn from the Blackhawk Network, which is owned by Safeway and responsible for sales of prepaid gift cards and an automated clearinghouse payment system.

Indeed, the choices for combinations are only limited by our imaginations but grounded in the need for new learnings in the industry.

What could Aldi teach Walmart about being both the low-price and low-cost leader?
What could Dollar General teach us all about the needs and aspirations of the value shopper?
What could Trader Joe’s teach Costco about the treasure hunt?
So, have a little fun with your associates during the dog days of summer and put your own hybrids together. 

Patrick Kiernan, managing partner of Day/Kiernan & Associates, is affiliated with The Center for Food Marketing at St. Joseph’s Uni­versity, Philadelphia; the Institute for the Future, Palo Alto, Calif.; and Encore Associates, San Ramon, Calif. He can be reached at KiernanPat@aol.com.

This entry was posted in 2011 08 Article Archives, Columns. Bookmark the permalink.