January 12, 2015

Retailing for intimate impact

Everyone goes to the supermarket. As a food-grocer, you fulfill a very important basic need for your customer. The contact with the customer is very intimate. You can have a real impact on consumer behavior and – taking a leap here – society. This is why I joined the Worldshop of Ghent a few years as a volunteer and still follow the activities of this NGO via my wife who works at their headquarter. Besides an interest for supermarkets, thinkig of examples I noticed that I have also tried out a significant number of clothing concepts. A little less basic than food, but still a very necessary everyday product.

OWW Gent Centrum
The examples I will give come from these two branches of the very diverse retail sector. The two flavors of retail concepts I would like to talk about are the ‘unworry’ and the ‘transformational’ concepts. In this post I will describe 5 Belgian and 2 international (relatively) new concepts of the first kind, that promises you to take away some of your worries - like the lack of leisure time. In my next post I will talk about the second flavor that attracts conscious consumers who buy a promise of a transformed world where trade is fairer and products are more ecological. But first, a little word about how I became involved in this sector.

Experience in and fascination for retail

Since my studentjob at Colruyt, where I worked for 3 years one summer month in the Oud-Turnhout supermarket; and another studentjob at Albert Heyn, 4 years one month in the Tilburg distribution center, I am intrigued by retail. I worked at the Belgian headquarters of a large German discounter. There I learned from the inside how the different departments in a retail company work with and sometimes against each other. Every time a new concept comes to Belgium, I try to visit it early to see what it is about. I went to the first Red Market in Opwijk and last week I went to Robuust in Antwerp – the zero waste shop. I also try new online-concepts to live the experience, like Suitcase and Bivolino. Or I tried different subscription based concepts like 'De wassende maan' and a flower subscription at Bleuet. Having a suit made to measure was a very nice experience, especially since my grandfather – Victor Paulussen – was a tailor. At least until confection put him out of the market. High on my list of experiencing are Colruyts Cru concept in Overijse, subscribing to the self-harvest field Het Wijveld and ordering meat through the crowdbutchering platform deeleenkoe.be

Deel een koe

Unworry, 5 Belgian and 2 international examples

Red Market, Collect and go, Bivolino, Suitcase, deeleenkoe.be. Except for the Delhaize discount concept Red Market, all of these initiatives are webshops. Red Market, with his broad aisles, limited assortment, selfscanning, and using one cue for all cashiers instead of one cue per cashier, focuses on effectiveness. I like the concept so now Delhaize has to make a choice: go for it all the way, and make the concept a success by opening more shops to profit from the economy of scale, or stop it.

The other concepts I categorize under this label are online concepts, where you can choose when and where you shop. The goods are brought to your door, or you have to collect them at a given place and time avoiding cues and stress in the supermarket or clothing store. Collect and go is the order-online-collect-at-your-local-supermarket-concept of Colruyt, Bivolino sends you made to measure shirts for a low price, Suitcase lets you choose a couple of parameters – business or casuel, fashion victim or fashion layman, Lee or Boss – and composes a suitcases filled with a couple of ensembles and a handwritten note. You try on the clothes at home and send back the pieces you do not like. My wife is wondering when this concept will become available for women :-).

Collect and Go, Bivolino, Suitcase

Shop while commuting

Two very innovative international concepts show us where we might go in the future. In South-Korea you have the Home Plus posters - the local branch of Tesco - where you can scan the articles you would like to buy with your smartphone and by the time you get home, the groceries are delivered to your door.
Home Plus

In the UK, Waitrose, in the upper segment of the market, is experimenting with Hiku, an app that lets you scan the barcodes of the products you have at home. This will allow people to add them to their online shopping basket.

Waitrose Hiku

In these times where everybody is always busy, busy, busy, the promise of a more efficient way to shop, and by doing so, winning so extra leisure-time is gold! In my next post I will talk about the 'transformational' concepts, and try to make a syntesis where the two flavors come together. This way - we might argue - unlocking the true societychanging power of retail.