Tips From the Grocery Store

30 June 2008 at 6:08 pm Leave a comment

In this weekend’s Sunday business section of the NYTimes there was an interesting article on Heinen’s Fine Foods, a 17-store grocery chain in the Cleveland area. While Tom Heinen, who runs the business with his twin brother Jeff was certainly hearing complaints from customers on rising prices, so far most of his clients are sticking with him. The article goes on to note:

“Their loyalty suggests a couple of things about the kind of middle-and upper-class shoppers Heinen’s tends to attract. While they are concerned about price, they’re increasingly thinking about their foods’ origins and quality. So they would just as soon not trade down from a store like Heinen’s that offers handsome local radishes and an excellent stir-fry station.

And they almost certainly don’t want to drive around to six different stores cherry-picking deals. “With two adults working and the kids going to soccer, I defy you to show me how they can do it,” Mr. Heinen said.”

Heinen’s is facing competition for those customers, Whole Foods entered the Cleveland market last year, and of course, there’s price competition from other regional grocery chains. Even at the best of times, running a grocery store sounds like a tough way to make a living. Margins are incredibly low, the stores are both labor- and logistic-intensive and just think about how gets tossed out from every store, every day. 

Heinen offered a couple of suggestion for savings, some of the same ideas he’s been mentioning to his customers. Not all of them are applicable to the design business, (but they’re certainly good for your grocery bill, so check them out here) however a couple can immediately be put to use. 

  1. Offer Artisan-Quality Deals
    Heinen’s had won Cleveland Magazine’s “best cheese selection” award
    for several years running as was determined to keep the honor. But
    with diary prices up 14% and the drop of the dollar against the Euro,
    they knew they needed to make bigger changes. So they went to their
    vendors and asked for help in finding artisan-quality products at
    reasonable prices. The result has been a new in-store focus on
    “Heinen’s Great Value Cheeses”. 
    Lesson: Ask your vendors for assistance in finding unique resources
    that fit the needs of your clientele. And then make sure to package,
    brand and promote those unique resources.
     
  2.  Is It Local
    Deb and I have spoken for several years on the need to develop a
    network of local resources that can provide unique products and
    services to the design trade. It started out as a way to move yourself
    out of the head-to-head price comparisons with big-box stores and
    direct competition. But with increased fuel costs, which means increased
    shipping fees, plus the spillover of the “locavore” movement, people are
    more than interested in this kind of shopping experience.
    Lesson: Become the “resident expert” for all types of artists and crafts-
    people in your area. Remember 10-years ago when every designer needed
    to have a least one faux-finisher in the rolodex? Well it’s time to expand
    your resource list once again!

The article wraps up with a series of questions that are great to have in your arsenal for your next price shopper

“So this is what you have to ask yourself: If you are patronizing a grocer
that doubles your coupons, discounts your gasoline or runs other expensive
promotions, how exactly are they staying in business? Are they gouging you
on the second most popular brand when the most popular one goes on sale?
Do prices bounce around so frequently that it’s impossible to keep the baseline
in your head?

Shoppers can play the discount game and win by shopping six different stores,
buying only the sale items and products they have coupons for, buying in bulk
and then cooking from the pantry and freezer. But is that really the live most
of them want to live?”

Switch a few words and you’ve got a great defense for why you’re not the cheapest, why you don’t need to discount and what the real value of working with a design professional is.

As always, let us know what happens when you put any of these ideas into practice in your business.

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Entry filed under: Client Relations, Marketing, Pricing. Tags: , , .

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