Category Archives: retail practices

Pretail: the new shopping trend

A new trend is poised to change shopping as we know it:  pretailing.   This emerging practice could really throw a wrench on our beloved “path to purchase.  According to agency JWT, pretailing is not just a fad but a “top ten” consumer trend.

English: Leonardo da Vinci in Amboise Русский:...
With crowd-funding, you can make like Leonardo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What may be game-changing about this is it’s not about giving consumers a sneak-peek at your new creation, as at an auto show.  Instead, it’s about people creating the product they want to buy.  In fact, they want it to so much they are willing to pay you to make it.  It’s like being commissioned for a great work, Leonardo da Vinci-style.

Success can quickly go to your head in the new world of pretailing because you actually see the money pot being raised.  Yet the idea of shopper-as-mad-scientist — co-creator of your grand idea —  may not actually thrill because you could lose all control.

Pretailing is brought to you via the new darlings of the “internether”:  crowd-funding.  Sites such as  KickStarter, Christie Street, Outgrow.me, the winsomely-named Tiny Light Bulbs, and others are where they have you at: “Hello…what the heck is THIS?”  And every new “this” means money.

The “pretailing marketplace” grew 85% to USD 1.4 billion during 2012.   Trendwatching reported that in one year, Kickstarter recorded 2.2 million people in 177 countries putting down  $275M to see their favorite products produced.

With all this warm & fuzzy acceptance pre-prototype, marketers may fear the R&D, focus groups, ideation sessions, channel analyses etc.  they excel in will all go pffft…   Do we need to destroy the smoke machines and wrap the mirrors in black?

Before we panic,  let’s remember that this is all about getting a product made.  But how about its survival?  Only time will tell if pretailing will decrease the high rate of new products that fail on the shelf.  In a fragmented distribution world, the right product is a good thing but the right channel is the secret of life.

That’s why we don’t see any decreased demand in expert marketing research and roll-out strategies for new products.  In fact, in a crowd-funded world, the challenge may be to stand apart from it.

In fact, we predict the demand for comprehensive market and trends research to ensure staying power will be even greater with pretail, especially since there is OPM (or, “other people’s money”) involved.   As every public company executive knows too well:  where there is OPM, there are rules.

Paying to play

Supermarket
Expensive real estate (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

The reports of Walmart paying bribes in Mexico to get permits to build stores  have certainly stirred a lot of industry buzz.  Pundits pose on both sides of the issue, debating whether this is truly illegal or merely how global business is done today. (For a thoughtful discussion of this issue, see:  www.perishablepundit.com )

While the final verdict on the case may take years and we’re not expressing our opinion, nor are we legal experts (disclaimers!), we can safely say here that this type of thing is rampant in most parts of the world.  In fact, in most cases it is just life as usual.

In Brazil, for example, the country would not function were it not for what the Mexicans call “gestores” and in Portuguese are “procuradores” and their many minions.  In a country where bureaucracy is endemic,  it’s the only way to survive.

If you have to wait in line for a document to prove you are still alive, you may very well die before you get it.   That’s why you hire someone to stand in line for you:  so you can get on with your life.

We assume this also applies to commercial construction permits.   In retail, a month may be a lifetime, so it’s easy to see the type of pressure this exerts on a company trying to enter a new market.

But let’s digress a bit to something we do know a little about, and that’s the concept of “paying to play”.  When we talk about this we are of course referring to the cost of doing business at retail outlets, sometimes delicately termed “real estate fees”.

Clients are often shocked when we tell them what it takes to get their products up on supermarket shelves.  Shelf slotting fees are said to be a $9B+ industry alone, and can easily run over $30,000 per SKU. (AMA)

So, if you have a brand with three different flavors, that’s three separate SKUs (you do the math.)  Note that this is typically in addition to off-invoice, case allowances or any other relevant fees to get your products promoted properly.

When you look at the one to two percent annual margins of most supermarket chains today you can see  that slotting is an attractive profit center.   But it’s important to also remember that a simpatico retail partner can make or break you.  So,  if you’re lucky and end up with your products on their shelves, why, you may soon retire in grand style.

Yet many of the sweet-hearted folk who make the great-tasting  jams you see at your local farmer’s markets don’t know or understand this.  They remain at the farmer’s market for that key reason:  they can’t get their products into the great indoors because they have no money.

We often run into the great  jam-&-jelly-makers of this world who spend thousands of dollars to participate in trade shows where they hope to meet supermarket buyers, yet have no capital to go any further.  They believe that just having great-tasting stuff is enough.

It’s like a pretty, aspiring actress hoping to be discovered sitting at a Hollywood lunch counter.   Does it still happen?  Maybe, but the “price” can be high, as these gals will tell ‘ya…

“No such thing as a free lunch” is the adage marketers need to keep in mind here.   If not actual hard cash, then certainly you need the “capital” of a well-thought out strategic marketing plan and a product that is totally of  the moment:  ideally, an “Aha!” item a chain may wish to keep for itself.   Additionally, to deal with the pressure you need a large set of what from Spanish roughly translates to “spherical male organs”…

Still, even if you have THOSE, you may wish to pray for some venture capital angel or a M&A expert to show up and offer to sell your wonder product to a major company so you can go sip Margaritas pool-side and forget all this stuff.