July 09, 2010

Email to CEO of Supervalu

This is the email I sent to Craig Herkert, CEO of Supervalu regarding their recent decision to thin out their selection of products.

Dear Mr. Herkert,

I am writing today to talk to you about the direction that SuperValu stores (Jewel-Osco in my area) seems to be taking. It is not a direction, I, as one of your loyalist of shoppers wish to go. The recent article in Chicago Business was particularly disturbing. Above and beyond all else, the "Project SHE, which stands for Simplify Her Experience" jumped out at me. 

Demeaning? Yes, Insulting? Absolutely. Unless it is 1952, or this "concept" was pitched by the cast of Mad Men I am completely stunned that this made it out of the boardroom and into reality.  In this economy, women (and shoppers as a whole) are more informed than ever about the choices we make in purchasing products. We are not overwhelmed, confused or mystified by a wide selection of products. We do not need to have the largest supermarket chain in our area "dumbed down" in order for us to be able to shop there.  Paring down your offerings by 15-25% will, in and of itself, cause some of your customers to abandon you entirely. Doing it under the guise of making it "simpler" for the dim-witted, easily confused poor little housewife who couldn't otherwise navigate the complexities of shopping in your stores will surely increase those numbers tenfold.

In the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, you are quoted as saying "So when a consumer comes to any one of our stores I want her to be able to make a choice. If she wants to buy a national branded product, I want to have that national branded product at a fair price for her. If however she chooses to want to buy something that is a better value, then I want to have that. We have a great private brand program. Quite frankly we haven't stepped up and really shown off that fact to Mom".  Again, the thought process behind this statement seems to be that Mom isn't all that bright. That we don't know what a better value actually is. Your SuperValu brand of products are in fact no value at all. There is no value in a low quality paper towel which isn't strong enough to absorb an eye dropper's worth of water. Speaking of water, if I wanted water, I'd buy it. Please don't masquerade it in a bottle labeled Shopper's Value dish-washing detergent. 

I'd also like to implore you to stop playing pricing games which are a clear indication of how 'simple' you think your shoppers are. If I walked into my Jewel today and went down the aisle to the Reynold's aluminum foil , do you know what I'd find? Wow! A red clearance sticker! Only $2.99!!! Too bad it is stuck underneath the yellow sticker with the original price of $2.99. You'll have to do better than that to convince me its a bargain. 'Simple' math 2.99 minus 0.00 is a 0% markdown.

If you really want to know what makes shoppers tick (and spend) I suggest you take the "simple" approach and ASK us.  It amazes me to think that you  seem to have actually fallen for Wal-Mart's slick marketing schemes. Just last week an article ran in the Chicago Tribune touting Wal-Mart's rock bottom pricing of $5.00 for a 24 pack of name brand soda. Meanwhile, I (as a loyal Jewel shopper) bought the same brand name soda in your store which was running a sale on 12-packs 4 for $8.00. Your ad also featured an in-store coupon for free Johnsonville Sausages with purchase of 4 12-packs.  So, a shopper could have spent $10.00 at Wal-Mart for 48 cans of pop. Or, they could have come to Jewel and spent $8.00 for 48 cans of pop AND a package of sausages. Truth be told I paid $6.00 by using a $2.00 off four 12-packs manufacturer's coupon in conjunction with this sale.

But, sadly most shoppers don't know that. Why? Because rather than directing your marketing campaigns to let Wal-Mart hang themselves with their own noose, you decide women need you to simplify your stores for us. A well executed print and TV campaign directly highlighting examples of the real cost of shopping at Wal-Mart will go much further to increasing your bottom line than insulting your core group of customers with this Project SHE will.

Note to readers: the reference to the Reynold's aluminum foil  in this email was the subject of one of my posts. You can see the picture of the actual shelf tag by clicking here.  To return to the post 'Supervalu thinning out its selection or dumbing down for women?' click here

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