Monday 27 February 2012

Store of the future: 80:20 towards 20:80 in store-level assortment?

Last week’s article on the IGD-Coca Cola research into the store of the future was the item most passed on to friends and colleagues by NamNews readers.
Key findings:
The report raised a number of issues in terms of the convergence of different trends such as shopper demand for more personalisation, with communication, promotions and deals tailored to their individual values and needs, pre-purchase advice from social media and online forums, in-store use of smartphones and ‘intelligent trolleys’, fully transparent supply chains in  terms of provenance and traceability, and environmental and social impact, with all of this information communicated on-shelf, on-pack and online through smartphones. The report also predicts that online generally will grow in prominence not only because it will continue to grow faster than the consumer goods market as a whole, but it will also form part of the wider store experience with some shoppers purchasing online and picking up in store..
Store-level assortment, the ultimate need
Essentially, we see all of this resulting in increased use of store-level assortment to satisfy savvy consumers unwilling to compromise on demonstrable value-for-money, with important knock-on impacts for suppliers and retailers.
If we assume that large stores currently offer a range comprising say 80% must-stock brands available nationally, and 20% available locally in response to historical demand, this one-size-fits-all approach will become increasingly out-of-step with market need as the above trends develop. 
How retailers will adapt their buying approach
Pragmatic retailers will want to restore the consumer-appeal of their large stores by stocking products more in tune with local need, to avoid shoppers voting with their feet in the search for satisfaction.
Superstores (say sales of £150m p.a., 450 employees with a CEO and organigram to match) will demand more autonomy, becoming increasingly unwilling to simply accept head-office response to a demand demonstrated daily in their stores by live shoppers, speaking with local accents…. They will want to optimise  increased buying expertise at branch level. 
How suppliers will have to re-organise...
In practice this means that suppliers will no longer see national distribution as a prerequisite for success in the launching of new brands, while their focus on existing  brands will concentrate on those parts of the country where brand-appeal is worth the effort. 
Equally, when successful retailers inevitably find ways of devolving increased decision-making power to local level, suppliers will need to extend their influence to branch level or risk being left out of local assortment. This does not mean a return to the days of large scale national salesforces, but rather what is required are small teams of high grade but possibly junior NAMs/KAMs operating at regional/local level, each capable of distilling corporate trade strategies, category management and marketing /promotional initiatives to local level…while their senior NAM colleagues fight for inclusion in the national 20% at retailer's head office...
For those of you taken with the idea, think one KAM business-managing 25 superstores, working 24/7, and work up the numbers…on in-house vs.outsourcing...   
Unless we all change locally in response to new local insight provided by increasingly articulate and demanding consumers, we are bound to sacrifice share to those who are already working in a ‘20:80  assortment’ mind-set, capitalising on local-niche brands, already comfortable with a mere 20% of brands having profitable national distribution

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