Harkening back to managing an improvisational comedy troupe in San Diego and prior to that participating with a Milwaukee-based group, one of my favorite improv games was “What are you doing?” In this shtick, two performers stand together on stage. One begins performing a physical activity and when asked, “What are you doing?” describes an action that is totally unrelated. For example, one actor may be rigorously doing push-ups on stage while telling the other comic that they are performing a root canal. This incongruence is hilarious.
Consider this as it relates to retail pharmacies and their appeal to shoppers in today’s fast-paced market. Imagine a pharmacy that you would expect to be focused on patient care, health, and wellness, which suddenly makes a totally incongruent decision that they will be selling live gerbils. Shoppers are caused to pause and ask the same question, “What are you doing?”
It is the race to attract shoppers and gain trips that is causing some retailers to lose their core identity which can potentially lead to puzzlement among consumers. Diversification is seldom a bad thing, but I am concerned that the portrayal of multiple personalities (something I refer to as the Sybil Effect) may alienate more core customers than it attracts new ones.
Family Dollar has certainly recognized that “value” is at the core of its DNA and is taking aggressive steps to reflect that in a series of moves that reintroduces food items at lower price points. CVS/Caremark may have realized a similar juxtaposition within its four walls as it boldly announced the removal of cigarettes from its inventory. Fred’s Super Dollar recently committed to putting more focus on wellness and accelerating its pharmacy presence throughout its enterprise.
So, for retailers, manufacturers, and distributors contemplating a strategic shift in direction, I encourage you to ensure that your next bold move is consistent with your business and that it doesn’t leave shoppers scratching their heads, asking, “What are you doing?”
Hamacher Resource Group vice president Dave Wendland, a 20-plus-year retail industry veteran, is a popular presenter and discussion facilitator available to speak at corporate and association events on a variety of retail-related topics. HRG is a research, marketing and category management firm specializing in consumer health care at retail. Product manufacturers, healthcare distributors, retailers, technology partners and others rely on HRG for strategic and creative solutions to help build their business. Learn more at www.hamacher.com.