Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jazz Up Humdrum Shopping

Last week marked the passing of retailer and philanthropist Leo Kahn at age 94. An Associated Press article announcing his death said Mr. Kahn helped start the age of Big Box retail stores. The New York Times headlined their article “Trailblazer in Big-Box Retailing.”
     They were referring to his co-founding of Staples, Inc. But well before Staples was Mr. Kahn’s launch of the Heartland grocery chain in the 1970s, consisting of warehouse-style stores in which shoppers picked their merchandise out of bulk shipping boxes and then bagged the goods themselves.
     I propose that a tribute to the legacy of Mr. Kahn be a continuing search for ways to jazz up humdrum shopping. After all, he did it with one of the more mundane product lines—office supplies. His Staples co-founder, Tom Stemberg, told the AP reporter how Mr. Kahn recognized that the person doing the shopping for supplies often was a secretary or office manager—someone especially likely to find the task quite boring. So Mr. Kahn proposed putting at the front of the store special items the secretary or office manager would find it fun to look at and consider purchasing.
     In our tribute to Mr. Kahn, let’s not reserve the fun for the front. Have those items throughout the store. For instance, researchers from New York University and University of Pennsylvania found that when people put a healthy food item into their grocery shopping cart, they become much more likely to select a fun food item next. In choosing the fun food item, they’re still interested in the nutritional value, but from the opposite point of view. They might very well be selecting the fun item because it’s not nutritious.
     A shopper who makes a good, sound purchase decision is ready to buy an item that’s mostly for fun. Whenever a customer makes the decision to buy a highly sensible item, offer them a follow-on sale of a fun item. Researchers from Columbia University and University of British Columbia found that the sort of variety provided by fun items even helps customers in crowded stores to feel better about their shopping experiences.
     For each of your product categories, what are some items you can include which are there mostly because they are fun to have, or even simply fun to consider purchasing? How can you display those items to project the fun, the excitement, the humor?

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Have Fun Items Throughout the Store

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