business news in context, analysis with attitude

Another in a series of previews of the 2005 Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Show…

When the ever-popular Harold Lloyd takes the stage for a Super Session at FMI 2005, he will have one primary goal in mind – to get retailers to stop thinking about efficiency and cost-cutting as a strategy, and instead to focus on the importance of freshness in establishing a differential advantage.

The Super Session, “In Search of Freshness: How To Make Your Store Stand Out,” is scheduled for Monday, May 2, from 3:34-5:00 pm. Lloyd said he will offer retailers concrete, user-friendly suggestions for how to achieve and communicate in-store freshness.

“Ultimately, what we think is fresh doesn’t really matter,” Lloyd told MNB yesterday. “What matters is what the customer thinks is fresh.”

Based on his own experience working with retailers and talking to consumers, Lloyd said, there are a wide variety of ways to communicate freshness – from the landscaping at the entrance to the displays that populate the store. One of the things that Lloyd believes is a major freshness component is in-store signage. “My rule is that I always prefer handmade signs to machine-made signs,” he said. “They just look fresher. I also think that every sign that is a quarter –sheet or bigger has to have some kind of fresh statement on it – ‘limited time only,’ for example, or ‘manager’s special.’”

One of the problems, Lloyd said, is that focusing on price is easy…or at least, obvious. However, it doesn’t add up to long-term success because this approach focuses too much on the competition and not enough on the customer. “You look at stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, and I think they probably don’t even know how to spell Wal-Mart. They’re just doping what they do, and they do it well.”

Of course, Lloyd concedes, supermarket companies often are impeded by the fact that “the decision makers at many companies know prices but don’t know perishables.” These decision makers, he said, often are former operations or financial executives who don’t do the shopping and have no affinity for the fresh side of the business, and therefore fall back on old – and failed – strategies when it comes to dealing with competition.

Lloyd said that he will offer 36 specific ideas for how to achieve and communicate freshness. One example: urging retailers to take is to “reduce the acceptable shelf life of prepared foods in our stores by one day – if it now is three days, cut it back to two, and if it is two, cut it back to one. There’s no excuse for the fact that we are selling three day old sandwiches from supermarkets, and Subway is making them fresh in front of the customer. How are we supposed to compete with that? How did we let this happen?”

Good questions. And Lloyd promised to provide answers.

Harold Lloyd’s Super Session will take place on Monday, May 2, from 3:45-5:00 p.m.

In addition, Lloyd will offer a Learning Lab at FMI 2005, entitled “Store Manager Development – Building Your Store’s Most Important Resource,” on Tuesday, May 3, from 8:15-11:00 a.m.

For more information about FMI 2005, go to:

And, for more information about Harold Lloyd, go to:
KC's View:
We agree with virtually every point made by Lloyd – his biggest challenge will be getting people to pay attention and act on his suggestions.

By the way, as we’ve noted previously in this space, we’ll be attending, participating in and covering the FMI Show in Chicago this year…and we’ve decided to repeat something that we did last year to a good deal of success.

On Sunday, May 1, we will be hanging out at the bar at one of our favorite Chicago bistros, Bin 36, from 6-7:30 p.m. And we thought that if any members of the MNB community would like to stop by, say hello, and chat for a bit…well, the first couple of bottles of wine will be on us.

It’ll be a great opportunity for all of us to put faces and voices with the names and words that appear on MNB plus an excuse to drink good wine. (Not that we need an excuse…)

(Bin 36 is located at 339 N Dearborn on the west side of Marina City, between the river and Kinzie.)

We’ll see you in Chicago.