In the early days of category management, we all talked a lot about category roles. Was a category ‘destination’ - one reason to visit a store? Was it ‘core’ - important to shoppers, offering a good range and price? Or was it ‘convenience’ - something shoppers could pick up while at the store, but where they wouldn’t expect the world’s best range or price.
The big four retailers are struggling to grow. They desperately need to convince customers to visit their big stores and not just shop online or in convenience stores. So perhaps we should be dusting down the concept of destination categories, and thinking again about how to make a category influence store visits. It is not easy, but the payback - to suppliers as well as retailers - is massive. Suppliers who help retailers in the war for footfall can expect to be treated more like a partner and less like a vendor.
So how can you make a category truly ‘destination’? We think there are six principles. First, choose a category that matters often to shoppers. Morrisons’ glory years were built on the Market Street concept. Fresh food really matters to shoppers, and really matters on most visits. Get that right, and people will come more often. Getting BBQ equipment right, for example, won’t drive visits as often.
Second, know your audience. George at Asda was a brilliant range designed with a crystal clear understanding of that retailer’s core customer. It might not have been a draw for everyone, but it certainly was for the people Asda were after.
Third, do it properly. M&S has owned, does own and will own prepared meals, because it has put huge effort and investment into innovation, quality and its supply base. Know your strengths and maximise them.
Fourthly, make it look fantastic at the point of purchase. The way Tesco displays food in Harris + Hoole and Euphorium radiates confidence and credibility. Don’t expect busy shoppers to notice great products of their own accord. Make sure they stand out.
Fifth, borrow authority if you need it. Aldi’s reputation as a place to go to for wine owes a lot to the way it has used expert recommendation and medals, to convince shoppers who may have initially had doubts.
Finally, invest for the long term. Waitrose customers are convinced it is the best supermarket for meat. Why? Because Waitrose has built a unique supply chain over many years, and has consistently delivered quality. It has taken a lot of effort and cost to build, but it would take a lot to lose that reputation now.
If you can deliver against a few of these principles, you will have a category that is competitive. Deliver on them all, and you will really be filling the car park.
Jeremy Garlick is a partner of Insight Traction