My most recent Harvard Business Review piece discusses a trend in retail: Whole Foods and other progressive retailers like Starbucks and Lululemon Athletica are increasingly shedding their national standards and conventions to achieve a more local brand image.
Given the successes reported by these pioneering retailers, it’s likely we’ll see even more companies moving in this direction. But, taking a national brand local is easier said than done. The failure of Tesco’s supermarket brand, Fresh & Easy, in the U.S. can in part be attributed to poor execution of its local strategy. When the company started opening Fresh & Easy units in the States, they were intended to be handy neighborhood shops.
But the company didn’t customize inventory based on what shoppers liked and simply imported the merchandising approach of its U.K. home base. And it didn’t implement any of the other marketing or operational strategies that would have produced a locally-relevant experience. As a result, the company has reversed course and has taken the unit into bankruptcy so it can go up for sale.
So, as my HBR piece concludes, it’s too early to say whether or not this new movement really works – but it’s an interesting business phenomenon I recommend we keep our eyes on.