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Course correction

How to know when it’s time to adjust course at retail.

We tend to focus on the “new” in retail, such as new strategies, directions and investments. These are typically rolled out with a lot of fanfare. 

Much less attention is given to course corrections or reversals. However, I’m pleased to see that more retailers are making course changes after realizing certain initiatives did not meet expectations. 

Shifting a strategy is a bold but essential decision. It’s a key part of business and increasingly a prerequisite for success in 2023 and beyond.

Here are a few recent cases in which retailers have made course corrections and how these have been playing out. 

Wegmans eliminates self-scanning app

Wegmans’ move \to eliminate its popular Wegmans SCAN self-scanning app last September became high-profile news across the business media. The attention reflected the surprise element. The tool became a popular pandemic-era strategy to support contactless payments and enable a convenient scan-while-shopping experience. However, there was a huge problem: the retailer was encountering losses. Many media outlets pointed to theft as the likely issue, although Wegmans did not specify a reason. Wegmans realized it could not move ahead with the initiative in its current form. However, it did the smart thing by promising customers that “we’ve learned a lot and we will continue to introduce new digital solutions to streamline your shopping experience for the future.”

Hy-Vee suspends employee discount program

Hy-Vee is another retailer that recently encountered unexpected losses from a program. The large Midwest company suspended an employee discount program in February after citing “loopholes” and “fraudulent practices” by some employees using the program. While it’s never a popular move to pull back on an employee benefit, the retailer realized it needed time to retool. Fortunately, its messaging was on target in communicating its case and underscoring a commitment to supporting associates. The company said it planned to relaunch the benefit and emphasized a long list of other benefits.

Heinen’s ends Instacart relationship

Like many other retailers, Heinen’s has partnered with Instacart to drive e-commerce delivery. The Midwest retailer drew attention in February by ending the relationship and moving to take the activities in-house. 

“We are introducing a new mobile app and upgraded shopping platform at,” Heinen’s explained to customers. “Your online order will be fulfilled by trained Heinen’s associates who will carefully pick and pack only the best quality groceries for you. You will enjoy FREE Curbside Pickup.”

Heinen’s move comes as retailers assess their e-commerce strategies for the post-pandemic era, and Instacart itself has been expanding its role as a technology solutions provider.

Amazon pauses store rollouts

Amazon turned heads earlier this year when its CEO confirmed the company is pausing expansion of its Amazon Fresh banner. The decision, like anything else associated with Amazon, became big news. The company’s move, however, is not likely to represent a withdrawal but rather a time-out. It is working on fine-tuning the format and moving to the next level of growth. The company is emphasizing its history with successful experimentation as it explains the changes. 

Retail course corrections will become more common in this era of quickly shifting customer needs and growing industry partnerships. Retailers need to know when to say “enough” to initiatives and head down new paths. This kind of approach, rather than representing failure, will help drive success. 

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