Niche Out Man, Niche Out! Retailing in a Big Box World!
Will this be ramblings of “retail marketing genius” or those of a “Kootenay Born” individual who grew up in the late 70’s! I’ll leave that for you to decide and for you to draw your own conclusions! Personally, I like to think the prior, but then again, I do have an ego that needs constant care and attention. 🙂
Once again I am writing at 38,000 feet en route to Toronto for a days meeting. What’s the reason for this post? This time it is too much trade magazine reading and a lot of questions from vendors and talk within the industry; as well as a tonne of questions and concerns from family/friends; all regarding the changing Canadian retail landscape.
Announcements of Wal Mart spending perhaps a billion dollars into the Canadian market to add more food and general merchandise to their stores. Changes in the way Loblaws is doing business with respect to Joe, new look in Real Canadian Superstores and then coming of No Frills banners to Western Canada. Changes to the leadership at Shoppers Drug Mart and finally the coming of Target stores as well as a multitude of other American big box and specialty retail to Canada in the next 18 – 36 months.
WTH!!! (that meant “what the heck”; my kids and the owners do read my blog once in awhile, gotta keep this clean!).
This is a lot of stuff going on in a country with a very small population and with an already overabundance of retail! How much retail can a small country support?
What does this mean for Canadian Retailers and more importantly to the Canadian Consumer?!
Quite frankly, I don’t know, but I do have opinions; shocking I know!
What it will most likely mean is greater selection of goods and probably better prices for consumers. The three big box guys of Wal Mart, Loblaws, and Target have large stores to fill, and will be trying really hard to gain your loyalty and trust with their offerings. Typically that means low prices for the everyday commodity type products.
It will probably also mean that more of the Mom and Pops will continue to struggle and probably close. It will mean that like our neighbours to the South, we will continue to have an economy that is over emphasizing consumerism with little effort put into local manufacturing. More off shore stuff and more focus on product from the few, and very large, multinational consumer packaged goods companies.
It also most definitely means that the amount of true Canadian retailers and vendors will diminish. We seem to have a love for American retail and foreign goods. Now, whether that is good, bad, or indifferent is open for debate and discussion, but the reality is that this is where it is going.
It probably also means more of the “same same” type of shopping feel, selection, and look in retail outlets. Diversity will go to the wayside, and we will feel that from one large retailer to another, nothing really changes, and if anything, we may not even really know who’s store we are shopping in! A sea of retail sameness! It will feel kind of like those dance remix songs, or these new pop songs that never seem to never end. Just one lonf song with no breaks, and yet my kids tell me that I have listened to six different songs; who knew?!?! It just feels and sounds the same.
I know, I sound like an old man!
I also realize that this has to seem nuts for someone in retail to suggest, but how much do we really need to buy and own? Is there just too much retail? Hmmmm? Now, having said that, I will suggest in this post, that retail and consuming is fine, I would just like to see it evolve away from the kind of retail that is like “the country to the south of Canada” style of retail. I am really trying not to pick on our neighbours to the south.
Wow! Must sound like I think retail sucks or that I am throwing in the towel and have just given up!
Not likely! Way too proud and way to committed to what I do!
I think what these kind of large changes forces the “little guys” to figure out where and what they want to be when they grow up. I can’t, and won’t speak to, or for, London Drugs and it’s greater direction or strategies as this is not for me to determine, discuss not divulge. That is for the owners and executive team to figure out and discuss. Plus, if I new that kind of info and for some silly reason decided to share that info, I gotta think this would most likely be my last post as a LD employee, and “we” are trying to avoid that outcome! 🙂 Employment is good and even though this is my blog and these are my opinions, I kinda need LD to fuel some of the stories; there are only so many holidays I can take and write about, and only so any pics I can post of my life. LD provides a great array of kool things to work from. Retail is fun and does allow for a lot of story telling.
As per usual, I digress.
So what can I share with you?
I can share the changes that you will see right now, and the ones that are soon coming in the categories that I get to “play” in at LD that relate to the premise of thi post. The things that we will be trying to do to stand out in the “sea of Canadian retail sameness”.
Over the next many months I will post some really kool things that I (“We” – I have a tonne of people that help me and this is hardly an “I” world!) am doing in food, baby and health. New ideas, directions and products. All of it stemming from the initial title of this blog post; “Niche Out Man, Niche Out”!
Ok, so what does that mean? Pretty little word that has been so overused in retail and business today, and yet, is rarely executed well. What does it mean to “Niche Out”(by the way – I am taking full credit for that term – “niche out”!)?
Without giving out trade secrets; not much of a secret when all you need to do is walk into a store and look at what we have done in the grocery department at LD, but most of the changes here would be an example of “niching out”.
Over the last numbers of years, I have had the dream of wanting to be a grocery buyer, in a quasi grocery store. But alas, I have had to wake up and realize that I was in a drug store, and we were never going to acheive my dream; we are not, and will not, be a grocer (it just hurts deep down to write that) 🙁 We don’t carry produce, we have no meats or seafood to offer, we have no dairy to speak of, no deli and no bakery. How can you be grocer without that!?! Answer; you can’t. You would think with all that, I would have realized that my dream was not going to come true much earlier!
However, if you ask many of the Western Canadian consumers, or ask the staff in LD stores, or ask many in the vendor community (food guys or not), or just walk into any of our stores on your own, you soon realize and witness, that for some reason, this drug store seems to do ok in “grocery”.
How can that be? Hoa can that be done?
I takes a lot of work, a lot of encouragement, and a lot of trust has to be given to you from above (referring to the bosses here, not God; although that does not hurt to hopefully have both on your side). It also takes a willingness to be a bit different.
We hear it all the time, “you guys carry some an awesome selection of healthy cereals” or “what great selection of higher end coffees and teas” or “great to see the huge selection of single serve coffee and tea pods (when I have stock – there is a story there) or “I love the selection of gluten and p-nut free products you carry” or “it’s great to see you support so many smaller local companies”.
Do we do everything well; of course not. Are things we can do better; for sure. Have the moves come at the expense of some consumers and some vendors; unfortunately yes. However, there is a flip side. Do we do these niche sections well and have we offered some kool procuts to Western Canadian shoppers; of course. Will we continue to evolve and try to do better and continue to find those small gems; for sure. Have the moves allowed us to attract consumers and new vendors and have they maybe chained the way some of our long time shoppers look at us; fortunately yes.
These are the things that can be done in a big box, highly competitive, and over retailed world. You try and find spots or areas; “niches”; that you can work in that can make you, your suppliers and most importantly, your customers, happy and hopefully loyal. Pick your spots!
Over the next couple of months I will give you some clear examples of many of the kool initiatives that we are taking in some of these categories. In the mean time, walk down to your local London Drugs and take a look at the new food ailse and let me know what you think. Remember, I am sensitive…. my Mom always said that if you had nothing nice to say….
And remember, “Niche out man, niche out!”
Check in regularly over the next while for updates and for postings on the new and kool at LD. I thin you will be impressed with the many new products that you will be able to purchase in our stores. I also think you will feel good about the variety of quality products we are trying to choose for you.
Ciao for now, @kootenayborn.