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A tale of two banners and two different experiences

There were drastic difference in two discount banners that were in the same area

Being part of a North American company, I spend a great deal of time in the U.S. observing and working with shoppers and retailers trying to understand what makes each tick.

Ultimately, the greatest differences that I find are not within the shopper, but within the retailer.

Shoppers are simple, in general they react positively when they are given a positive experience and the opposite tends to hold true as well.

Retailers on the other hand are far more complex. I see them striving to balance shopper experience with practicality, corporate positioning with local or regional demands and often general disconnection from their core shopper.

On a recent trip to the southeast U.S., I found myself engaged in a store tour of some of the more economically challenged areas of the region.

In comparing two similar shopping banners in the same 3 “mile” radius I saw drastic differences. Both banners were discount in nature, both had approximately the same square footage and relatively the same offering but two very different experiences.

Banner number 1: People were greeted in a friendly manner, floors were clean, a security guard was present but was laughing and interacting with shoppers. The shelves were well stocked, and there were aisle signs and headers (though not an overabundance) which some shoppers did take note of. Upon check out, both cashiers were friendly, attentive and each engaged in light conversation with shoppers.

Banner number 2: There was no greeter, the flyer rack was in total disarray (though the cashier was only 10 feet from the display), there was no signage other than price within the store and the security guard systematically followed shoppers at a distance of less than 10 feet making it very well known that they were being watched. Many aisles had security features (similar to those that in Canada we are used to seeing in the razor blade section) including the confection section where some of the price points were less than $2.00. Upon check out, neither of the two cashiers greeted shoppers and one of them was on her personal cell phone while cashing out customers.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am in no position to judge either retailer having spent only one day in their region, However, in a time where increasing sales and building basket are top priorities for most retailers, I will return to my original thought in this blog post that shoppers are simple.

In banner number 1, carts were much larger, shoppers appeared happy and employees looked glad to be there. In banner number 2…not as much.

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