Our Industry Resolutions

Paul Reuter, Founder and former CEO, CSP

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This is about the time I ask myself: So how are those reso­lutions coming along?

There’s no doubt that if in the next CSP Daily News poll we compared resolutions, I’d be right up there with most: lose weight, exercise more, be more accepting of others, etc.

On the business front, it’s probably a stretch to label our 2011 work plan a new year’s resolution. Regardless, if that poll did happen, I would bet that diet ranks No. 1 on the personal side for most. Focusing on improving customer service would be the No. 1 business topic.

What would probably not be new is that both items would have made our list last year and the year before and the year before.

Today, baby boomers number about 73 million, and health and well­ness is their core focus. For example, we are seeing boomers account for about 25% of participants in major marathons. This generation is out to get healthier and live longer. The phrase “you are what you eat” reso­nates with them.

And that can help us on the busi­ness front. The Pantry CEO in last month’s issue told us why he believes the industry is well positioned to grow our foodservice business, and grow it we must.

The blurring of need states in retail keeps accelerating. Recently I was in a Phoenix CVS. Wow: In the store’s circular were multiple coupons and many product discounts. The store had 15 cooler doors and a wide assort­ment of single-serve beverages, plus beer by the case, both warm and cold. Cigarettes and OTP sat at the regis­ter. The store had low gondolas, was clean and easy to shop, and had a wide assortment of fill-in merchandise.

Target invested nearly $500 mil­lion last year in a new push on gro­ceries and more; its new retrofits have shown a 6% increase in traffic. Walmart announced a five-year plan to make thousands of its packaged products lower in unhealthy salts, fats and sugars, and to drop prices on fruits and vegetables. The com­pany has been having discussions with Michelle Obama as part of her effort to reduce child obesity. This is the first time the first lady is throwing her support behind a single company. No doubt with 16% of Kraft sales coming from Walmart, it and other food companies will be hearing from Walmart about how they can help.

Restaurants are on the fast track to use social media to reach out to cus­tomers. On their horizons are more contests and rewards to keep patrons coming back. Supermarket price dis­counting and cross-merchandising at the pump is accelerating and gaining larger consumer acceptance.

And yes, the economy is showing healthy signs, but make no mistake: Competition for the retail dollar and traffic will stay challenging because shoppers learned valuable new habits during the recession.

Where our industry can play and score big is with best-of-class cus­tomer service. It’s no surprise that QuikTrip again made Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work list. My bet: If you find a company that ranks high as a best place to work, you will find a company that excels in customer service, and as a result it ranks in the industry’s top quartile for profits.

When I am working in our Mesa, Ariz., office, my morning run for coffee, paper, yogurt and (too often) a chocolate doughnut takes me to a QT on Lindsay and Baseline. There are always three or four happy employees providing great service, interested in how they can help. They have a clean store and restrooms, and terrific prices. Yesterday I asked the store manager if he could stop selling those doughnuts. He said, “As soon as we stop selling gasoline.” For sure, he does not care about helping me with my new year’s resolution! Mmmm … are they good.

Hope your new year has started out well. Have a happy and friendly 2011.

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