In Praise of Store Execution

By 
Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

"No more Rutter’s.”

Believe it or not, that’s a directive we occasionally must give on the CSP editorial team: Cool off on talking about and to Rutter’s Farm Stores for a few months. Find another retailer to interview.

Don’t get me wrong—we hate the rule. And it’s hard to stick to: CEO Scott Hartman and the entire Rutter’s team excel at most things; operations, technology, foodservice, design and marketing all come to mind. And they’re always willing to share their ideas and experiences for articles in CSP.

Nonetheless, to avoid fatiguing Hartman and his crew, sometimes we force ourselves to lay off. Just for a bit.

So when we learned that Rutter’s won our 13th annual CSP-Intouch Insight Mystery Shop, we were both exuberant and, well, not all that surprised. When Rutter’s wants something done, the team does it with a surgical perfection that almost makes it look easy. A highly complex foodservice program with a mission to serve the customer’s every whim? Sure. A new 9,100-square-foot prototype deemed a “monument to convenience”? Done. An all-time high score in the history of the mystery shop? Yes!

A Solid Bond

Rutter’s joined the mystery shop in 2016, and in just one year it jumped from a solid fifth place with a score of 91.5% to a record-breaking 99% this year. It changed the conversation of the entire shop, which often has been a neck-and-neck race between QuikTrip and Kwik Trip.

Read our story on p. 30 to learn about two big themes driving Rutter’s stellar shopper experience (hint: they both start with C), and the toolkit to execute on them. You’ll find a faithfulness to the company’s dairy roots, a commitment to competitive wages, and even devotion to a particular model of mop.

One thing always stands out to me about Rutter’s (besides the fact that if I want mozzarella sticks and pastrami atop my burger, I can get that with no problem). It’s the evident bond between headquarters and operations.

I’ve heard folks within Rutter’s speak of this for years: The right hand not only knows what the left is doing, but also respects it and makes decisions based on what’s best for both.

Which is probably why the Rutter’s team is so willing to share, with CSP and the industry as a whole. They know it’s one thing to learn about what a fellow retailer is doing, but it’s a wholly different task to execute on it.

Our Own Mystery Shop

We asked ourselves a critical question when setting out to cover this year’s mystery shop: What’s the value to a retailer who wasn’t one of the dozen or so participants? What do they get out of the story?

What we determined was that the power of the mystery shop isn’t in the data; it lies within how the participants got to those numbers. What’s behind Rutter’s 100% score at the pump island? How did Rotten Robbie get a perfect score at the fountain? These insights are what makes the mystery shop valuable and helps the industry as a whole improve. The challenge for the reader is to translate those ideas to their operation and, of course, execute unbelievably well.

The mystery shop helps CSP, too. Witnessing some of the industry’s top retailers work doggedly to improve is inspiring, and we’ve been striving to follow their lead.

In our June issue, we launched a new department: Workforce. This page, which appears in each issue after our legislative and financial briefs, delivers ideas and tools on how to survive the ongoing war for talent. Our ace editor Alaina Lancaster lives and breathes workforce topics and is steadily becoming both student and teacher. I urge our readers to reach out to Alaina ([email protected]) to share your own efforts and experiences.

And like our mystery-shop participants, sometimes we are recognized for our work. In May, we were one of the top 10 finalists for Magazine of the Year from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. (See the fancy award, above.) It was a first-time honor for CSP, and one that works to fuel the flames within us. I think it’s what Hartman and his team felt last year after a solid fifth place in their inaugural year: We want No. 1, and we want it because of you.


Abbie Westra is director of Winsight’s Retail Content Group. Reach her at [email protected].