Take off the blinkers

17 November, 2006
Tradition in bakery is all well and good, says retail guru Bob Cardona, but not if it's preventing bakers from connecting with their customers and moving with the times
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At last, there are signs on the horizon of a few brave bakers who have noticed things are hotting up on the high street! Apart from the giants, such as Greggs and Subway, making their presence felt, retail bakers face the added challenge of the in-store concessions, bake-off and any number of coffee-based offers. But many have their blinkers on, focusing just on their products while neglecting the bigger picture.
The shift towards snacking on the move - as opposed to subsistence shopping - is creating a whole new way to slice up the market. Some bakers have successfully kept pace with these challenges by evolving their offer - Reeve The Baker, Thomas the Baker, Oliver Adams, to name but a few. Others have had to make more radical changes. Coughlans, for instance, recently adopted a breezy new name and image - Munch - that re-positions it more as sandwich makers/coffee shop than 'bakers and confectioners'. It was awarded '2006 Baker Sandwich Maker of The Year' at the Sammies, largely for its bold new image.== GLUED TO TRADITION ==Many have moved with the times, and some are offering real exotica - ciabatta, foccacia, walnut and walrus, date and dingo (there's no end to the invention)! But in truth, there are still those that are glued to certain traditions to the point of extinction. Tradition is defined as a "long-established custom or belief, often one that has been handed down from generation to generation" - says it all really! Tradition is fine when devised as part of a positioning statement or as a ploy in creating a look based on heritage (actual or invented) such as in Paul's or Le Pain Quotidien; but whenever it's handed down, it usually means tired, weary and long overdue for a major overhaul.== SHAPING FUTURE TRENDS ==Just as Ford has gone from Model 'T' to Focus ST by continually developing its products to meet the demands of drivers, it has kept pace with market trends to the point where it now actively shapes future trends. Indeed, Mr Ford started out in 1903, making Ford younger than many 'traditional' bakers!Bakers can remain traditional and be proud of their heritage, but they do need to look to the future - and it's not just about having a great product. It's about developing a connection with the customer, with real retailing and marketing and all those alien 'ings' that some bakers have struggled to adopt. Bakers need to look harder at their products and customers and ask themselves seven key questions:1 Who are our customers?2 What do they need to buy?3 How do we connect with them?4 What could we inspire them to buy?5 Are we adding to their shopping experience?6 Where else are they shopping for similar goods?7 What makes our products sodifferent to anyone else's?Now ask yourself, should you be a customer-focused business or a product-focused business? The retailers who've stepped out of the bakery long enough to take a look around will know how to answer that. Those that bury theirs heads in their ovens will not. nlBob Cardona FRSA is MD of CDA Option One Strategic Retail Design



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