November 5, 2010
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Last month I wrote about creating destination products. This month, I have been travelling with a couple of really seasoned and experienced road warriors. These are the folks that travel the world (literally) seeking out the vendors, the products and the trendsetters that drive the business of the world’s great private label retailers. These are the people that develop programs like Carrefour’s Reflets de France, Boots’ No7 and Costco’s seasonal candies from around the world.
The holiday season is upon us all folks. What are we launching that will entice our customers away from the drudgery of everyday, to put aside their worries about housing and jobs, to seek a few products that will lift their spirits, if only for a brief moment?
The road warriors I have been on the road with this month are examples of the best of the best in our industry. Sure, they need the backing of their bosses to pay their travel expenses. They are driven by the sole desire to find the next destination product for their stores. They are food detectives. Sleuthing their way from backstreet to backstreet in search of the new vendor, the new restaurant and the new leader in food fashion.
You all know the stores that thrive on such products. So think about what you thrive on and will do so for the next five years or more. If your store’s height of strategic thought is the week’s flier and the price checks against the store across the street, then these thoughts might not be for you. But please think long and hard about where such activity leads you. And what the alternatives for meaningful sustainable differentiation might be. Do you have a foodie that is your right hand as much as or more so than your in-house broker? Or your senior buyer/merchandiser? Have you given thought to driving product development much more than any of your competitors? Or do you sit back and think that Costco or Trader Joe’s can’t be beaten or matched at their own game?
Sial has just passed. Were you there? Did you visit Loblaws for their Summer Insider’s report? Did you marvel at the thought of launching 14 new flavors of ice cream, with in-store tasting and TV advertising to support them? What are your plans for PLMA this year?
Think on it folks. Please. Make this the year that if you don’t have a road warrior on your team, you might want to find one. Sooner, rather than later.

I take my hat off to my travelling companions of the last week or two. You work really hard. You are passionate about finding the next whatever. And what’s most important, your company needs you, respects you and gives you the freedom to do what you do. Because you deliver. Safe travels!


Tom Stephens is the founder of Brand Strategy Consultants, North York, Ontario. He can be reached at 416-391-1635 or VOIP him at: Vonage 416-907-9848 or Skype at stephenscrimson, or e-mail at Stephens says thinking “inside the box” is often appropriate, since answers to 90 percent of retail problems can be found inside the four walls of the store.


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