ORLANDO, Fla. — What do women executives connected with the food distribution industry think of their shopping experiences at supermarkets and other channels of trade?
That question was put under the microscope at a seminar on “shopability” — the relative ease or difficulty of shopping a store — at this month's Food Marketing Institute Midwinter Executive Conference here. (A brief overview of the seminar formed the basis of an editorial column in last week's SN.)
On the panel, led by WSL Strategic Retail's principal Wendy Liebmann, were Helayne Angelus, vice president, global customer business development diversity, Procter & Gamble Co.; Deb Cain, vice president, regional general merchandising manager, food and sundries, Costco Wholesale Corp.; Anne Fink, vice president and general manager, PepsiCo sales; and Cathy Green, chief operating officer, Food Lion.
Conversation among the group was sparked by the results of a WSL poll taken of 250 women executives identified by a list of names provided to WSL by the Network of Executive Women. The poll showed that supermarkets and other shopping venues have a long way to go to make the shopping experience more convenient and efficient, and that product attributes need to be better described in-store and on-package.
Here's a summation of some of the points made during the roundtable discussion by each participant:
Helayne Angelus said she shops in a supermarket that lacks a coherent organization of cereal items because traditional and organic lines are displayed separately. She said that category needs better organization.
Deb Cain told about shopping for a new cell phone in an outlet that offered little in-store information or assistance. As a result, she ended up with a device with too many and excessively complex features. Extrapolating from that experience led to the placement of informative signs about product in Costco's wine departments.
Anne Fink told of her experience of making a quick stop at a wine store to select a gift bottle. She was struck by how well the categories of wine were arranged in the store, which facilitated a quick and easy selection process. She observed that supermarkets often don't equal that ease of selection or navigation through stores. She also finds information about product to be lacking both in stores and on packages.
Cathy Green recounted how several years ago she looked around the produce department of a Food Lion supermarket in an effort to find healthy lunch box items for her children. When the search produced nothing, she was able to persuade the company to add such sections. The number of items later grew to the point that a special kids' section is being added at some stores. In a similar vein, she noted that some of Food Lion's Bloom stores have store sets driven by meal occasions, such as breakfast or dinner.