Friday, October 17, 2008

The Art of Scheduling and Market Research

Conference scheduling is an art, choosing time slots that conform to speakers’ availability and that mesh nicely into a cohesive program. Sometimes it can lead to amusing juxtapositions. Take this week’s Argyle Executive Forum 2008 Leadership in Retail and Consumer Products Forum in New York City.

The kickoff retail speaker was Stephen Sadove, chairman and CEO of Saks Inc. Sadove said sales at the luxury department store and off-price retailer reflect how the wealthy view the value of their stock portfolios, so it was no surprise that sales were down.

Sadove was immediately followed by a retailer who appealed to the polar opposite in net worth. David Brandon, chairman and CEO of Domino’s Pizza, said his customers freak out when it cost $80 to fill their gas tanks, that with an average Domino’s ticket of $20, that’s probably the cost of a cup of coffee at Saks.

Throughout the day’s worth of presentations at the New York Athletic Club, at least one theme emerged—the need to understand and meet customer expectations.

Brandon provided perhaps the most universally relatable example. When Domino’s opened in Taiwan, market research indicated it would do well. Children craved pizza, and their parents were eager to please them. But sales did not take off because Domino’s had failed to fully account for all of the decision makers when it came to family dining. In Taiwan, many households contain three generations—children, parents and grandparents. Pizza was approved by the first two groups, but the grandparents cast a “pizza veto.”

Further research discovered that grandparents really liked fried chicken. Once Domino’s added fried chicken to the menu, sales doubled, said Brandon, proving again that local adaptation of a corporate program is often the gateway to success.

By Murray Forseter

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