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Tue 6 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Convenient resolutions

The commitments that individuals are making to reform their habits in the New Year should extend to retail bosses with the exciting possibilities spread out before them.

The commitments that individuals are making to reform their habits in the New Year should extend to retail bosses with the exciting possibilities spread out before them.

Whether shoppers become more economically or environmentally responsible this month, it is the perfect opportunity for retailers to respond to these trends.

From national branding campaigns designed to unite a chain's broad array of banners under a common theme while reinforcing the unique things that make each local chain relevant to its respective markets, through to overhauls of checkout speeds, store appearances and customer service, retailers also want a prosperous year ahead.

Nominations for The World Retail Awards, the prestigious event to be held in Barcelona in May, will be accepted until February 6, which should instil a firm determination among Middle East bosses to showcase their successes.

In the current global economic climate, it is deemed logical to bolster defences and it may be that, as the old adage suggests, attack will prove to be the best means of defence, according to Neil Saunders, the consulting director at Verdict Research.

"If this is done then you will not only actively defend yourselves but you may well reap a huge benefit. The process reveals opportunities equally as well as it reveals risks and threats and before your competition sees them," he says.

Many FMCG brands in the Middle East have opted to achieve some clear-cut goals by using brand ambassadors, building brand loyalty and attracting the interest of younger audiences.

Intelligence provider Planet Retail has revealed the winners of its Innovation Awards, after an intense year.

As the Most Innovative New Concept among convenience stores, Couche-Tard Menu has replaced its traditional fare of hot dogs with fresh items such as sushi, soups, fajitas, lasagne, Viennese pastries and espressos. Stainless steel islands feature chilled drinks and ready-to-eat food items and there is an in-store food advisor to ensure product freshness.

Last September, Wal-Mart opened its fresh food supermarket trading under the banner Marketside in Arizona, the winner of the Most Innovative New Concept among supermarkets. Stocking up to 10,000 SKUs with an emphasis on fresh, grab-and-go meals, bakery, hot soup, pizza and produce, including a strong selection of organics, the store represents a major departure for the mass market merchant with an upscale colour and merchandising scheme.

Providing greater competitiveness, by not only emphasising quality and convenience, but also price, must be prioritised. While shoppers are watching their waistbands and their purse strings, retailers should experiment with formats and be more adventurous to gain victory.

Lynne Nolan is the editor of Retail News Middle East.

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