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Merchant Or Retailer

by DW Green — February 12, 2014

Last May Supermarket News ran an excellent story about Wegmans. In the article entitled Wegmans 101, Robert Wegman was quoted from his “I Am a Merchant’ Speech.”

“I am a merchant, and I have therefore my own philosophy about merchandising: That is, to do something that no one else is doing, and to be able to offer the customer a choice she doesn’t have at the moment. This is the only reason for being in business. To my own way of thinking, this is the only way it should be.  

“I think that uniqueness gives one an opportunity to profit. If you are doing the same thing that everyone else is doing, your opportunity for a substantial profit is materially reduced because of the price ceiling your competition will impose. Thus, good merchandising resolves itself into rendering a service in such a way as to be difficult for your competitors to emulate. This is the basic premise of the way we at Wegmans operate.”

Mr. Wegman’s words represent a brilliant and well-expressed business creed. I believe there is a powerful distinction between being a merchant and being a retailer. A merchant mindset goes beyond selling products to consumers for a profit. The merchant mentality involves the totality of the consumer shopping experience. From product merchandising to signage, story telling, product assortment, service and services…all store activities presented within a cohesive brand style.

Merchants merchandise to stimulate interest and entice customers to purchase, while the retailer focus is selling.

Congratulations to Kevin Davis, President and CEO of Bristol Farms for receiving FMI’s Robert B. Wegman Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence last month.

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