By Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, 5/2/2005 12:00:00 AM
Sitting through the day-plus meeting at JCPenney for analysts last month, one of the more interesting sessions was presented by Charlie Chinni, executive vice president, general merchandise manager.
Called “benchmarking for success,” it was a detailed outline of how the company looks at its specific businesses vis-a-vis itself and the competition.
As Chinni explained it, benchmarking is a measure of any situation — positive, negative, tightly focused, overall. As he said, the focus competitively is on retailers that are best in their class. Not necessarily best overall — but in a specific element of their business.
The tightly focused benchmark criteria can be even more important to a company like Penney, where the top-of-bed market share is 15 percent, and the company is seeking to hold or grow that share. Or in window coverings, where customer perception of pricing, selection, and, most important, service is critical.
Too often we are talking with retailers whose knowledge of competitive issues is often vague and non-specific. They've read an ad, shopped a store or two, but the detailed knowledge of a specific area at retail is at best fuzzy.
The critical issue is to identify who is doing the specific business better, as well as applying internal company standards in other areas to specific businesses that need help.
Since there are very few secrets in the world of consumer products at both the supplier and retail levels, the need for more intense analysis of competitive situations is increasingly critical.
And the challenge is to enlist the activities of the entire group involved in a specific business — from financial analysis including sales, gross margins, turnovers, market share and the like to best-in-class brands and competitors and how they deal with similar situations.
Too often retailers are focused on the headquarters launch of a new concept or product.
The follow-through at the store level often falls far behind expectations. Even worse, “corporate” often fails to make the rounds of the stores to follow up on the process.
Benchmarking would help.
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