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The Missing Link

by Adam Zack — September 9, 2015

SmokeSignal-166766523

Communication works for those who work at it.

The general public has considered jobs in a grocery store for generations with general disdain. Tell your uncle that you work at a grocery store, and the first comment is something along the line of “What are you going to do for a real job?” It’s an industry that is under-appreciated. It’s thought of blue collar, at best. Think of someone with a career in grocery, and what do you think of? Mr. Whipple? A grouchy old meat cutter? A cashier that snaps her gum and complains that her back hurts?The reality is that the grocery business is one of the hardest industries there is. Intense competition, demanding customers, always working on weekends and holidays and fairly low wages. It’s no wonder your uncle expects you to get a real job. But there are thousands, if not millions of employees who are not just working because they need the paycheck. They actually love their job. They love their customers. They love their co-workers. They love food. And they take pride in their market. Every day. The missing link comes in when store management and ownership fails to recognize and appreciate these employees. Worse than that, they fail to communicate with them. It happens ...
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Going to the Dogs (and Cats)

by Adam Zack — September 3, 2015

Dog

Fetch: Dog days of summer

When I was young I was different from all the other kids. Everyone I knew either wanted a dog or had one. I didn’t. Maybe it was the thought of cleaning up after them, or maybe the possibility of incessant barking. Or maybe it was just never got the “I need a four legged buddy” gene. Even my own dad told me “There’s something wrong with a person who doesn’t like dogs!” I didn’t say that I didn’t like them (or maybe I did). What I said was I didn’t want one. Still don’t. But I am definitely in the minority. Dog (and cat) business is BIG business, and I do like business. Which brings us to this week’s topic, creating promotions and campaigns aimed at your four legged friends and their owners. The most shared and “liked” Facebook posts include dogs (specifically puppies) and cats (here kitty…). It’s a bond that grocery retailers need to embrace. The pet owners go to the pet store when they need pet food or supplies, but they come to your store much more often because they don’t buy their food in 40 pound bags. So are your pet toys, chews and treats really current and trendy or is it the same old Hartz products, Alpo and Kal Kan? Are they strategically placed in impulse locations or are the...
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The Complete Package

by Adam Zack — August 26, 2015

tiffany-packaging

Tiffany’s package has made girls
hearts race since 1906

I was recently talking to an executive chef that ran a restaurant/gourmet market/patisserie in downtown Los Angeles. It’s called Bottega Louie and they do an amazing amount of sales volume. Amazing. One of their signature items is their homemade French macarons. They sell something like $20,000 a week in these pretty little cookies. And the key to those sales, he felt, was the packaging. They spent money for design and a fancy box, which resulted in the cookies becoming a distinctive and prestigious gift item. Think about it – how often are your purchasing decisions initially influenced by the package or wrapping your eye sees? The king of branded packaging has got to be Tiffany. The sight of a Tiffany Blue Box with the signature white satin ribbon has made girls’ hearts race since 1906. It’s brilliant branding. As grocers we are always working to reduce costs and a significant expense in the industry is wrap and packaging supplies. We are always looking for cheaper. But does that sandwich on a foam tray wrapped tight in plastic wrap really help the sales? Nope. And does that fruit parfait that gets put in the least expensive plast...
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Life’s a Sandwich

by Adam Zack — August 20, 2015

Adam Zack

“Ugh, I ate too much.”

Forrest Gump said that life is like a box of chocolates. That may be true to a point, because you really don’t know what you’re going to get from life. But if you have a box of chocolates, you know you’re at least going to get chocolate. I think that life, no make that a good life, is like a great sandwich. And what makes a great sandwich? A half pound of meat? No. Interesting ingredients? Yeah, that helps. Great quality? Sure. But what really makes a great sandwich is balance. A truly awesome sandwich is one that has the perfect amount of the main ingredient. For this example we’ll say house roasted beef. The bread is vital, as it is the bookends of our sandwich. It’s slightly crispy, light and airy. It’s the compliment to the insides, not the dominatrix. The condiments are artfully smeared. Not too much mayo or mustard, maybe some horseradish aioli. If our sandwich has some veggies, they are crisp and fresh. And of course the cheese is sliced thin and layered very gently. Our perfect sandwich is not too big. In fact we can eat the first half, savor a sip of iced tea, and then eat the second half without feeling overly stuffed. There are no regrets of “Ugh, I ate too much” with the perfect sandwich. ...
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The Hardest Words

by Adam Zack — August 12, 2015

IMG_0094CROPA while back I recounted something my Uncle Butch (yes, that’s his real name) told me about waterskiing. “If you’re not falling, you’re not trying.” It really is applicable to most anything in life worth doing, If you’re not failing at times, or making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. Even someone named Perfecto (supposedly he makes the best Paella in Los Angeles) makes mistakes. Excellent managers realize that their team is going to make errors, miss targets, under or over estimate and fail sometimes. It is the effort that counts – when it’s well thought out, planned and executed with the best intentions. The upside of making a mistake is the learning portion that comes with it, and the result of the next effort being better than the previous one. But this is not about making mistakes and doing better the next time. It’s about what to do when you do make a mistake. Human nature is to hope no one notices. The Blame Game is very popular, as is the Denial Shuffle and the It Doesn’t Really Matter Two Step. So when we make a mistake, the hardest part often is owning up to it, and the hardest words are I’m Sorry. And not the eye-rolling, “Sorrrr-ryyyy” like you used to give your mom. Or the half dismissive “Uh, yeah, sorry” that you mumble out. No, real learnin...
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Lead Me, Lead Me

by Adam Zack — August 6, 2015

adamAre great leaders made or born? And what are the traits of a truly great leader? I define a great leader like this: A great leader could call their team at the middle of the night, tell them that there is a plumbing problem and all the toilets and sinks are backing up in the store, and their help is really needed. Then, not because they fear for their jobs, not because they are worried about lack of sleep or getting their hands dirty, but because the leader needs their help and wouldn’t have called if he didn’t, they head right over to the store. And the leader is there, plunger in hand, directing the team and helping at the same time.

 LEADER (noun)

  1. a person or thing that leads.
  2. a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group.
The leader chooses the path and directs the troops on what to do. He is responsible for the big picture, not all the crayons that are used to color it. He surrounds himself with talent, by either developing great people or hiring them. Most organizations are stocked full of people with hidden brilliance that just hasn’t come out because no one has asked their real opinion. They are bogged down with managers who second guess every decision and literally micro-manage the spirit right out of their employees. The leader gives the goals, and let’s his...
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Howdy Partner

by Adam Zack — July 31, 2015

Over the past 25 years I have seen many, many grocery store employees treat salesmen, delivery drivers, merchandisers, repairmen and other vendors like $@#*. I think it’s some kind of junior power trip, where they know they have some leverage because, after all “I’m the customer! I’m paying this guy’s salary by letting him (or her) sell to me!” It’s like they are in Bizzaro World and do the exact opposite of how they are taught to treat their customers. And you know what happens after the vendor does his job and leaves the store? He runs into other vendors, and employees in other stores, and his family and friends and says something along the lines of “You’re not going to believe what an @*&^%$#@ the guy at XYZ Market is! If I didn’t have to deliver to them, I’d never go in there!” And the word gets around. So where do these employees get this behavior? Were they beaten like redheaded step-children as kids? Were they bullied in their youth and are now getting their revenge? Or are they just following the example of person who trained them and other employees they have observed? Whatever the reason, it is management’s responsibility to create a culture of respect and courtesy with their store. It obviously starts with the customer who comes through the front door, but it has to continue to the plumber’s helper who is just there to pump the grease trap. (And if there ever was a job that deserved a little respect and sympathy, ...
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Humor Sells

by Adam Zack — July 23, 2015

A priest, a minister and a rabbi want to see who’s best at his job. So they go into the woods, and they find a bear, and they try to convert it to their particular religion. Later, they get together, and the priest says, “Well, when I found the bear, I read to him from the Catechism and sprinkled him with holy water”. And the minister says, “Well, I found a bear by the stream. I preached God’s holy word to him. The bear was so mesmerized that he let me baptize him”. They both looked down at the rabbi, who’s laying on a gurney in a body cast and they said, “What happened?” And the rabbi said, “Well, I never should have started with the circumcision”. It’s funny, right? Humor in our daily lives has the unique and encompassing ability to ease tensions, to lighten a situation, to make us relax. Laughter, or even just a natural smile is a proven stress reliever. But how is it relative to our business as grocers and marketers? Is it even something you should consider when marketing or creating an ad? Absolutely. Check out this store sign:SignThat makes you smile AND it makes you want to buy chips. Probably two bags, since most of you considerate people would want to get one that your spouse likes too. Ad themes are a great way to communicate your creativity and reinforce your differenti...
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Crunch Time

by Adam Zack — July 9, 2015

7-13Kesslers_Cherry1-2PageROPYou know those supermarket ads you get in the mail or newspaper each week? The one that come via Red Plum or Advo or some other mass distribution vehicle? Next time you get them, try this experiment. Lay a few of them out on the counter and cover up the name of the store they are from. Can you tell which store they are from without seeing the name? Or do they all pretty much look the same? The big chain stores are very, very good at producing ads that offer no differentiation from the other big chains. They even have the same items, or at least the same type of items. They offer no unique promotions. They don’t tout uncommon offerings. They don’t do anything to let the reader know that there is an exclusive experience, if only the shopper were to come in to see it. An ad is your chance to capture attention and bring the shopper in. Not enough retailers think beyond the proverbial box when it comes to promoting their experience. And no, major holiday’s do not count. Anything your chain competitors do doesn’t count either. So this week here are five promotional ad themes that you can do to differentiate yourself. They are creative. They are fun. They are relatable and easily promotable in...
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The Art of Thought

by Adam Zack — July 1, 2015

Shining gold gift boxIs being thoughtful a natural gift, or a determined choice of action? The most wonderful people I know are the most thoughtful. They are the ones that listen to the things unsaid. They pay attention when most people don’t. They store little bits of information in their brain of things that are important to others and remember them at just the right times. They give gifts that you really want and appreciate. They do things for no reason at all, like make you a copy of a CD (yes, a lot of us still do listen to CDs) and say something like “I know you like The Smiths, so I made you a mix CD of their best songs.” Thoughtfulness is the by-product of people who really, truly care. They do it because it makes them feel good to make you feel good. Just like thoughtful people, some of the most successful businesses are the most thoughtful. That doesn’t mean that they sacrifice profit just to be nice. In fact, it’s just the opposite. They are able to achieve consistent, rewarding profit margins because they are thoughtful to their customers, their vendors and their employees. I had the pleasure of running a market over the last 4 years that did incredible sales volume. We served over 15,000 customers a week out of a 12,000 foot store. So when the holidays rolled aroun...
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