Go ‘lean’ to make shopping easier

December 21, 2011

Stores that enhance customer comfort and distract less from the merchandise they aim to sell can emerge as winners.

The term ‘lean’ means much more than a fitness or dietary goal when speaking in manufacturing, business and health care circles. ‘Lean’ is a proven process that reduces waste in movements and materials, raises accuracy, lowers errors, cuts costs and lessens worker stress.

Toyota Motor Company popularized its use in the automotive field, for instance, and hospitals such as Johns Hopkins and Cleveland Clinic have applied the process to enhance patient safety and help improve health outcomes.

Given the repetitive, time-intensive tasks it takes to distribute goods and run supermarkets at a fast pace, The Lempert Report suggests that retailers and CPG look further into the potential operational advantages of using ‘lean’ to optimize flow.

Some of the greatest competitive advantage could come from making shopping easier for customers. In short, optimizing customer flow.  Supermarkets that achieve this could differentiate in ways that save people time and money, and help them fulfill shopping missions with less stress, more clarity, and more accurate purchase decisions for their specific needs.  

As a result, shoppers would feel less spent emotionally and less taxed physically. By setting stores, signing and merchandising to incorporate ‘lean’ principles, retailers could save shoppers countless steps and lifting, ease how they maneuver through stores – and potentially eliminate much of the ‘noise’ and clutter that distract from the merchandise for sale.

Simply, ‘lean’ is all about maximizing customer value while minimizing waste – a win-win for shoppers and retailers. Could ‘lean’ help stores earn more customer trips and bigger baskets? We think so, if it gets people to think of shopping as less drudgery and more of a way to satisfy their households.