We’ve written several posts over the past couple of years about two major grocery store trends, one seemingly in opposition to the other. First is the move to small-format stores. Second is the move to larger stores that include several “non-grocery” services inside.
Seems like the Hy-Vee chain has been studying the second strategy to infinity (and perhaps is trying to redeem itself after the beating we gave it here for its awful use of Facebook). Earlier this month, Hy-Vee announced its most full-on, large-format grocery yet, to open August 14th.
“…at 93,000 square feet, [the new Iowa store] will also include a sushi bar with seating, a coffee-shop/lounge area, a gelato station, a fruit and juice bar, an oatmeal bar, a pizza oven and a variety of store-made grab-and-go prepared foods. In addition, it will have an expanded housewares section with a cooking demo area, a large wine and spirits section, and what the company described as the largest selection of bulk foods in central Iowa.”
Oh, and its first “Market Fresh Grille.” A FULL-SERVICE RESTAURANT.
Sounds like 930,000 square feet wouldn’t be enough.
So, how does Seth Godin, the King of All Marketing Metaphors, fit into this story?
Last week he wrote a post titled “Who let this guy in the building ?” about a frustrating trip to the pet store. Turns out the “lonely” woman at the in-store veterinarian office was unable to tell Seth – er, the customer – where the leashes were located.
“Really? She sits there every day, day after day, and she doesn't know or doesn't care where the leashes are? Who let her in this building, and why?"
After two more just-as-dopey examples, the post ends with this:
“You may not have the authority or the control to decide who gets to talk to your customer before you do. Doesn't really matter, though, because the customer thinks you do.”
On what planet might that be? A planet, perhaps, where a customer could also ask the “lonely” woman at the vet counter “Does Fancy Feast Elegant Medleys Souffle with White Meat Chicken only come in a 3-ounce can?” A planet where a customer could ask a pet-store employee out in the dog leash aisle, “My dog just swallowed a tennis ball – can the vet get it out?”
Hy-Vee is f*cked if its new store is on that planet. Here’s what customers should expect they can do as they wander aimlessly around all 93,000 square feet:
- Ask the sushi chef what time the Market Fresh Grille closes
- Ask the gelato server in what aisle canned cream corn can be found
- Ask the coffee shop barista if the juice bar uses fresh or frozen fruit
- Ask the stock boy why a grocery store would have an “oatmeal bar”
With everyone having to learn everyone else’s job, Hy-Vee would be lucky to open its new store by August 14th…of 2019.
Long before social media, a guy named W. Edwards Deming tried to help businesses avoid the trap of covering up sh&tty performance. He would have told the pet store manager that he had a real problem if shoppers couldn’t find the dog leashes, for chrissake. Asking a “lonely” woman who works for the in-store vet to cover for it would be an operational sin in Deming’s eyes.