Catching customers at their point of need

A lesson I learned in the rain

Today the weather in London was, well, changeable, it often is… So when I left the house this afternoon it was sunny and by the time I got off the tube at the other end it was raining, heavily. The problem: I had no coat and no umbrella, bugger. I stopped at several supermarkets but had no luck in finding an umbrella, so I just got wet.

But as I trudged through East London getting soaked I thought about how stupid this situation was, I stopped at 2 Tesco Metro shops and a Budgens, neither had even 2 or 3 cheap £5ish umbrellas, to me this is a massive missed opportunity: It amuses me that so much money is spent by retailers on getting you into their store as opposed to a competitors and then once you are in there in making sure you spend as much money as they can eek out of your wallet with all sorts of “special offers”, impulse purchases by the tills (ever wonder why every till in a supermarket has a line of chocolate bars next to it, mostly on 2 4 1?) and other promotional materials, both in and out of store, but they miss a really simple opportunity like this.

But is it really that big of an opportunity? – well let me spell it out:

– On average it rains 107 days a year in London (lets take that as a rough proxy for the whole UK, as this is just a basic calculation)
– And there are over 5300 tesco stores in the UK (according to Wikipedia)

So lets say each store buys in some cheap umbrellas with a profit margin of £2 per unit, and what if each time it rains 5 units are sold, as a very broad average across the whole company… that means each year these umbrella sales are worth £5,671,000 per year to Tesco! – Easy money from people caught short at their point of need…

but that is not even the best bit:

You get me in to your store with the umbrella I need but as I buy that I probably make impulse purchases while I am there, maybe a drink or a chocolate bar, or meal deal, whatever.

The point is this: Take the easy wins, it can’t take too much to order in a few thousand umbrellas and some basic signage to advertise them to Tesco stores and instruct the manager to put the signage up and the umbrellas out when it is raining?

And here is a bigger thought: What about those evening standard and metro guys who hand out papers, what if they were equipped with umbrellas to sell on rainy days? – Could be an easy additional revenue source for them and they are located at key transport hubs, so a very good example of being at the point of need.

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