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'Don't Be Good, Be Freaky Great,' NGA Speaker Tells Indies

'Unified focus' can tame hard discount threat

Independent supermarket operators should abandon an aspiration to be “good at everything” and instead challenge themselves to be “freaky great” at only a few things, speaker Harold Lloyd urged in a presentation at the National Grocers Association show in Las Vegas Monday.

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Adapting this “unified focus,” Lloyd said, will be key to sustaining relevance amid the increasing influence of hard discounters, who themselves are growing behind a similar organizational focus on executing a few things flawlessly. Top conventional grocers such as Wegmans, Dorothy Lane Market and Publix are also examples of organizations aligned behind a mission statement and a small list of things—typically no more than five—they do better than others.

Describing Aldi and Lidl as a “two-headed monster,” Lloyd said independent grocers won’t survive their expansion if they don’t establish a mission and a strategic plan to differentiate through on a few key aspects. “It’s scary without a focus,” he said. “It’s really scary if you don’t have an identity.”

Lloyd urged attendees at the morning session to challenge their organizations to consider the things they can be best at and devote their “money, time, attention and brainpower” toward them. “You can’t be good at everything, but not great at anything,” he said.

Lloyd said his consulting group assembled a list of 25 points of differentiation—any four or five of which could be combined to form a unified focus for independent grocers. These include differentiating on the best fresh presentation, most knowledgeable staff, best cleanliness and best service. Lloyd said the list would be available at the NGA website.

Once grocers decide on these aspects of differentiation, they should develop five programs underneath each point to support them. For example, if a grocer is aspiring to differentiate on friendliness, they could institute a program of “upstreaming” shelf packing—or have employees facing the prevailing direction of foot traffic in stores when they stock to encourage interaction between employees and shoppers.

Lloyd said executing on each of these points of difference and the programs underneath them could take some companies three to five years to accomplish—“but you’ll be bulletproof when you do.”

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