Company Blog

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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Get Your Share of Cyber Monday

by Adam Zack — June 25, 2015

ThinkstockPhotos-487773269smJuly is next week. Seriously. Wasn’t it just a couple weeks ago that the east coast was getting dumped on with snow? Wasn’t Valentines Day just about a month ago? Maybe it’s as we get older, time seems to go by quicker. Or maybe we get so busy we just don’t realize how much time has gone by. Or maybe these theories are all a bunch of BS and the activities when time seemed to go slow (school, church, sitting in the dentist getting your teeth cleaned, doing sit-ups, etc) are mostly things of the past.In any case, July means that the holidays are right around the corner, and that means Cyber Monday will soon be here. So what does this mean for grocery retailers? We don’t have anything to do with Cyber Monday. It’s just another medium-slow weekday for us. Right? Well, for most it is, but we work with a few cutting edge retailers who have chosen not to concede the online Cyber Monday sales to the big box retailers and online mega-merchandisers. Three of our clients – ranging from one store to eight stores, embarked on a Cyber Monday promotion with astounding results. The program is this: Offer their store gift cards for sale online ONLY for 24 hours with substantial discounts. ($100 gift card for $75, $50 gift card for $40, limit 4 cards total per household). ...
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Listen Up!

by Adam Zack — June 19, 2015

ThinkstockPhotos-477563044“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

– Stephen R. Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
I know this guy who never lets anyone finish their sentence.  Never.  It could be something as simple as: (me) “So we packed a six pack of tall boys and then…” (him) “Went down to the beach?”   Or it could be something complex like: (me) “Then you attach the ground wire before you “(him) “connect the Johnson valve to the kanuter circuit?”  (No!) So we all do it sometimes, especially when the person speaking hesitates a second.  It’s kind of (and by kind of I don’t mean in a good way) a natural reaction.  But as it started to happen more and more, I started noticing and paying attention to how much it really was irritating.  I mean, what says “I really don’t give a flip about what you have to say” more than not even letting the person finish their sentence?  And because of this guy, I noticed that I was doing the same thing sometimes, and when I stopped to actually listen to the conversation, I noticed how irritating I sounded by not letting people finish their sentence.  I sounded like a know-it-all who really didn’t know it all.  It comes down to really listening (and by listening I do not mean hearing) what the other person ha...
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Service Above All Else

by Adam Zack — June 4, 2015

pass-failContinuing on last weeks theme of what makes—separates—great companies from the simply good to terrible, customer service always seems to be the key differentiator. And it’s not just businesses we shop; it’s municipalities, utilities and even public transportation. I was once traveling to London with a layover in beautiful Newark, New Jersey. We had to wait nearly five hours. As an airport employee approached me, I asked him what time it was. He looked at his watch out of reflex, then looked me in the eye and said he didn’t know. And no, his watch wasn’t broken. And yes, I am sure it wasn’t just a wristband. He knew, but he chose not to tell me for his own reasons. God knows he looks at his watch to see when it’s time for his break. It was a blatant example of “I just don’t CARE.” So I never flew through Newark again. And I told about 30 people the story, so I am the reason everyone thinks Newark sucks!Caring, from ownership through management to employees, sets the foundation for great customer service as one of your core values. Who doesn’t want to be the company that people talk about in a good way: “You’re not going to believe happened to me today at the grocery store!” What? They screwed up your sandwich again? They put dog food in the chili? They commented on your wine p...
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The Point of No Return

by Adam Zack — May 27, 2015

reportCardDoes anything say “We don’t give a crap about customer service” more than a Gestapo like return policy? When you think of great customer service, which national brands do you think of? I think Nordstrom sets the gold standard. And you know what their return policy is? They don’t even have a return policy! Check it out! Nordstrom Return Policy Maybe you have heard the tale of a man taking two tires back to a Nordstrom in Alaska and getting a refund, even though they did not even sell tires. I am sure there has been some embellishing over the years, but who wouldn’t say “Wow!!” upon hearing it. It automatically gives you confidence that if for any reason you’re not happy with what you buy, you can get a refund without going through the Spanish Inquisition to get it. And how about Costco? How great is it that if you don’t like, need or want something, you can take it back without a receipt whenever you feel like it (OK, with electronics they give you 90 days, which is extremely generous. Everything else has no time limit.) Customer focused return policies are a vital key to great service. Lucky’s Market, with 18 stores in 11 states has this return policy:...
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by Adam Zack — May 21, 2015

Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older – David Bowiechange-architect-sign1Maybe the people most resistant to change in the country are conventional format American grocers. I’m talking the old school, this-is-how-we-do-it-because-its-always-how-we’ve-done it grocery lifers. The produce managers who grew up unloading 50 pound sacks of potatoes. The meat guy who apprenticed breaking down sides of beef. The baker who insists white bread is making a comeback. The grocer who says “If they don’t like it, they can take their business elsewhere.” Well guess what? Quality potatoes don’t come in 50 lb sacks. Carcass beef is virtually non-existent. Millennials like whole grain breads. The American consumer has changed and is taking his business elsewhere. Of course there are hundreds of exceptional grocers whose leadership has led their stores down the path of change. No, they have actually blazed the trail of change, and many have followed. Or at least attempted to. We work with dozens of grocers who live the motto: Change is good.My uncle, who was an incredible water skier, once told me “If you’re not falling, you’re not trying.” I’ve never forgot that ski wisdom. It is so practical to our business. We’ve got to try change if we want to get better. There is...
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You Gotta Have Faith, Faith, Faith

by Adam Zack — May 14, 2015

faith-blogIt’s never wrong to do the right thing. Never. You treat people right, with respect, with a caring spirit and good things come your way. My simple definition of karma: What goes around, comes around. I’m not talking that you’ll win the lottery. Or that you’ll always be happy. Or that your life will be problem free. No, faith in doing the right thing means that you don’t have to worry about lies being uncovered. It means that your regrets will be fewer. It means you’ll have a clean conscience. It means that the gossipers have nothing on you. It means that you smile more. Really.Faith in business dealings is incredibly important. It’s not just about maximizing profits, reducing costs and beating the competition. Faith in business is trusting that your clients, vendors and customers share a common belief that when you all do the right thing, success will follow. It results in long term relationships that evolve into truly caring. And when you care, work becomes less of a job and more of a passion.Especially in times of economic distress, your business faith will be tested. Pessimism can yank you by the hair and try to snap your head back. You will question and second guess your decisions. But you did the right thing, made good, honest decisions, ...
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May I Present…

by Adam Zack — May 5, 2015

presentationDo you know the three most important words to increase sales? Price? No. Service? No. Selection? No. Sure they are important factors, and they do influence the buying decision, but the three most important words to get the customer, or should I say potential customer, to stop and check you out are: 1. Presentation. 2. Presentation and 3. Presentation. I learned that lesson about 25 years ago from a customer who listed it just like that. He said “Why would I shop at your deli if the foods look like dog crap?” And he was 100% right. A little extreme maybe, but right. It really applies to almost everything we purchase. If we don’t like the look of a car, we move on. If the photo on the dating website (and I have no experience in this, but I’ve been told) isn’t attractive to you – pass. If the macaroni and cheese in the hot foods case is dry and crusty, well it won’t be on the table for dinner. And if the burger you get doesn’t even come close to resembling the one in the photo, you feel gypped and jaded to future purchases. Presentation, presentation, presentation.In our grocery business, presentation is more than just the food. It’s the creativity of the merchandiser. It’s the good looking and informative signage. It’s the display that stops you in your tracks and makes you go “Wow!...
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Promotion, Promotion, Promotion

by Adam Zack — April 30, 2015

DW and I were recently in Indiana talking to a very respected grocer and his executive management staff about branding and marketing. The topic of promotions came up, and we subsequently talked about the importance of promoting your store during non-traditional promoting times. Maybe because we are both just more than a little weird, we started bouncing ideas around and we felt like the ideas that have some type of humor to them would resonate best with customers and employees. One of my very favorites from DW was a garlic promotion, with the headline “For a guy who smells, he sure is popular!” Or a seedless watermelon promotion: “He’s the Spittin’ image of his father, without the spittin’ part.” In the end, after a couple beers on my part and a couple Cokes for DW, we ended up with a list of over 75 promotional ad themes to share with our customers.So next time you look at your competitors ads and notice how boring and indistinct they are compared to yours, push yourself to think of a new ad theme that will blow both your customers and your competition away. Battle of the Bacons anyone?

Read More: To Theme or N...
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by Adam Zack — April 22, 2015


adjective per·fect \ˈpər-fikt\

: having no mistakes or flaws
: completely correct or accurate
: having all the qualities you want in that kind of person, situation, etc.

I don’t know if there is a word that in the past 5 or so years has been more overused than “perfect”. “I’ll be home in about an hour.” “Perfect.” “I shampood the cat.” “Perfect.” “My feet don’t hurt today.” “Perfect.” “We are out of cheddar but we have American cheese”. “Perfect.” “I only found one mistake on this week’s ad.” “Perfect.” No, “not perfect”, that’s more “acceptable”, “Okay” or “good”. Maybe I am just a little too demanding. When I think perfect, I think I cannot do any better. Not one thing would make it better. It’s flawless. And flawlessness is one thing that doesn’t run in my family. We are a pretty confident bunch, and fairly competent too, but flawlessness did not dip its toe in our gene pool. I don’t think it was even in the same back yard. Our compliments tend to be more of “Not bad”, “Pretty good”, “Nice try” and for something really exceptional maybe a “Great! (with the ...
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