Essential reading

Winning At Retail is must-read material for anyone interested in a new way to evaluate retailers’ strategies. It was written by two senior partners at McMillan Doolittle Consulting in Chicago (Will Ander and Neil Stern) and was published in 2004 by John Wiley. (Full disclosure: I am on the roster of consultants at McMillan Doolittle Consulting.) The book lays out a very clear template for deciding whether retailers have focused on a relevant competitive strength and whether they are winning by executing to that key strength.

In a nutshell, Ander and Stern discuss the “EST” theory of retailing…retailers need to decide what they are best at, and focus on it. This may be “Cheap-est” (think Walmart), “Big-est” (a category killer like Best Buy), “Hot-est” (such as H&M), “Easy-est” (a solution-oriented retailer like The Container Store) or “Quick-est” (Walgreens, with its multiple locations and drive-through strategy). A successful store often excels at more than one of these “EST” positions but focuses on one. Those who fail to focus end up in Ander and Stern’s “Black Hole of Retailing” — and several stores have fallen into the hole since the book was published.

Don’t miss Winning at Retail — whether you are a retailer, an analyst or a student of the business, it’s a fresh way of looking at how consumer-centric stores can gain market share.

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