Time to test personal food stylists

September 27, 2013

Practical advisors could help shoppers pull off holiday season dinner parties, and learn to rely more on the supermarket.

In the apparel world, personal fashion stylists add value in many ways.  They pull together looks for clients, convey knowledge of multiple lines, give early access to new items, and suggest what works for specific occasions based on their knowledge of customers’ individual preferences.  In sum, they filter what the store sells to simplify shopping, customize the experience, and raise customer satisfaction.

Service like this was once the sole province of luxury stores.  But as the Los Angeles Times recently noted, mid-level retailers such as J.Crew and Target offer it now too to differentiate and create relationships that could mean the difference between a trip to the store and the click of a mouse on a competitor’s website.

The Lempert Report feels supermarkets could generate trips and bigger baskets by similarly offering the services of personal food stylists.  (Though this term has been used to refer to people who stage food photographs for advertising, we’re not talking about them.) We have in mind practical advisors for people planning to entertain in their homes or looking to elevate their food experiences.

Supermarkets with 40,000+ items are more challenging to navigate than ladies’ wear in a department store—and the anxiety of pulling off a successful dinner party is comparable to that of finding a perfect outfit for a specific occasion.  

We’re also heading into the time of year when home entertainment rises on the priority list of many households.  Especially in this economy, we believe many will go out less and party at home more.  Personal food stylists could significantly help pull together a medley of tastes for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa season hosts.  They could help shoppers find options for guests who perhaps have heart disease or diabetes, or want gluten-free dishes, or prefer foods from certain cultures, or prefer sweet over savory.

If a holiday season test succeeds, retailers could expand the presence of stylists year-round to uplift the role of the supermarket around Super Bowl, birthdays, graduations, confirmations, quinceaneras, and themed weekend get-togethers. 

This service could help retailers differentiate and build performance—especially if they target shoppers who surpass certain purchase thresholds.  For operators with loyalty programs, this service could help excite cardholders and serve as a platform for new innovative services that help transform the shopping experience.