business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

There's an old marketing saying that may be going the way of pagers, dial telephones and eight track tape players:

You can get the job good and fast, but it won’t be cheap.

You can get it good and cheap, but it won’t be fast.

And you can get it fast and cheap, but it certainly won’t be good.

The Rolling Stones put it this way:

You can’t always get what you want.

Except these days, shoppers are finding that they can.

I got a glimpse of this new reality a few weeks back while attending the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) international trade show in Amsterdam. Everywhere I looked, the offer to shoppers was clear: you can get everything you want.

For instance, I saw products clearly aimed at healthy eating that talked about taste. Or quick serve items that claimed both taste and quality. And, of course, there was a common theme that these private label items are both inexpensive and offer top-notch quality. That’s not a message limited in any way to private label. Everywhere you look now you see the same promise: high quality, great taste, ease of preparation and low cost rapidly are becoming the norm.

It’s all part of the new value equation consumers demand these days. While they are willing to spend more for certain products, services and experiences, in many cases they want the whole package. It may seem like too much to ask for, but if competition can supply it, the promise can be met.

That’s an emerging industry reality that brings no comfort, especially as the drought in the heartland starts a process that we know will result in higher food prices at exactly the time when consumers reject paying more for anything. What makes the challenge in 2012 so different is that emerging competitors are making this new reality more possible than ever.

You’ve read plenty here on MNB about and the emerging force of on-line shopping and rapid delivery that we all know is coming fast. Yet there’s more.

Consumer Reports online ran an interesting article last week about the new realities of dollar stores, long the destination for extreme bargains and, in many cases, a less than stellar shopping experience. (You can access the article here.)

In summary, Consumer Reports found that dollar store shopping has become significantly better, making it a wonderful alternative for a growing number of shoppers. The article highlighted both realities myths of dollar stores.

For instance, dollar store shopping is seen as fun, convenient and frugal. Consumer Reports says shoppers can find a product mix that readily matches their needs, including key fresh products. All those attributes might explain why 76% of the shoppers surveyed said they have visited a dollar store in the past year.

In addition, the article finds vastly improved store and shelf conditions, better product safety and ample variety of both national brands and private label. That in turn may explain why an increasing number of upscale shoppers are giving dollar stores both a look and a try. The article makes a point that even a casual visitor to dollar stores can make these days: newer units are better lit and more inviting than ever.

In other words, there is a way to get it cheap, fast and good, but that’s what competition has always done. Which in turn means the only way to keep winning is to keep getting better at everything you do. Especially when shoppers believe they can always get what they want.

And what they need.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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