Retailers’ Formula for Success: Use Data to Understand Shoppers

May 3, 2023
by David


Leading a successful retail business requires a combination of skills and resources but finding that balance can be difficult. No one knows better than Liz Williams, president and CFO of Foxtrot, and Cullen Gilchrist, CEO and founder of Union Kitchen. Both leaders have helped their respective businesses grow, build a reputation for innovation, and earn customer loyalty even as the industry rapidly evolved.

Recently at Expo West, SPINS presented a retailer breakfast where Williams and Gilchrist shared their experience as retail leaders and offered advice on finding success in such a competitive industry:

Bring Data and Experience Together

According to Williams, a combination of art and science is what keeps Foxtrot successful. The art is deciding which items to stock—a matter of taste and judgment. The science is what happens when the products are on shelves when she can observe what is selling. Foxtrot’s membership program allows the team to monitor buzz around certain products, and layering POS data on top of that brings the story to life.

Gilchrist has a similar view of Union Kitchen’s approach. As an accelerator, Union Kitchen helps brands create flavors, sizes, and packaging with shelf appeal, but that work gets put to the test once customers walk into the store and can decide if they’re willing to buy the product. An even more important test: Will they become a repeat customer?

In both cases, data supports the entire process—from product selection to performance tracking. Sales data lets retailers understand what people are buying and which products are finding a loyal customer base.

Understand the Values-Oriented Shopper

When Williams and her team are deciding what products to bring in, they look for items that align with their shoppers’ expectations. Foxtrot shoppers want convenience; they choose these stores over big box stores for a reason. That’s why their shelves are lined with products that have fun and colorful packaging. Williams explains that Foxtrot follows a 40/40/20 approach for product inventory:

  • 40% are large CPG products that you can find at big box stores and other large retailers
  • 40% are modern hits that perform well but aren’t the largest brands
  • 20% are up-and-comer brands that are just getting started.

The business can continue to grow while adapting to the latest trends driven by values-oriented consumers. This product assortment enables stores to remain nimble and adjust based on trends they’re seeing and sales figures in their own stores. The ability to pivot is necessary for any retailer that recognizes the importance of staying in tune with the community.

Gilchrist believes that businesses that focus on doing well within their community are the most likely to succeed. They understand what those consumers want and will create products that they want—and those are the products retailers want to stock. Union Kitchen works with brands that concentrate on the needs of their neighbors and the community. Many of these emerging brands focus on Latino, African, and Asian products that represent a large population of customers who aren’t always represented on store shelves. Staying connected to the needs of these customers keeps retailers like Union Kitchen and Foxtrot innovative and successful.