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CIES this morning released its 2005 Top of Mind survey, pointing to competition and retailer-supplier relations as being the most important issues facing retailers and manufacturers in the coming year.

Interestingly, the issue of “competition” wasn’t even included in the 2004 survey, and this year was the top concern in the total survey as well as just of retailers.

The survey is based on the responses of more than 300 executives from 65 countries.

The survey traditionally breaks out the survey responses three ways – overall rankings, retailer rankings, and manufacturer rankings.

The overall rankings are:

1. Competition
2. Retailer-supplier relations
3. Customer loyalty and retention
4. Technical standards/supply chain efficiency
5. Consumer health and nutrition
6. Formats, services and assortment
7. Food safety security
8. The retailer as brand
9. The economy and consumer demand
10. Internationalization of food retailing
11. Accountability (sustainability, social responsibility)
12. Employee/management recruitment/retention
13. Regulations

Noteworthy in the overall rankings is the fact that “consumer health and nutrition” moved up in importance from ninth last year to fifth this year, and that “food safety/security” moved down from fourth to seventh, while “internationalization” went from fifth to tenth.

The retailer-only rankings are:

1. Competition
2. Customer loyalty and retention
3. Formats, services and assortment
4. Food safety security, which tied with Technical standards/supply chain efficiency
5. Retailer-supplier relations
6. Consumer health and nutrition, which tied with The retailer as brand
7. Accountability (sustainability, social responsibility)
8. Employee/management recruitment/retention
9. Internationalization of food retailing
10. The economy and consumer demand
11. Regulations

And the manufacturer-only rankings are:

1. Retailer-supplier relations
2. Competition
3. Consumer health and nutrition
4. The economy and consumer demand
5. Technical standards/supply chain efficiency
6. Internationalization of food retailing
7. Customer loyalty and retention
8. The retailer as brand
9. Food safety security
10. Accountability (sustainability, social responsibility)
11. Formats, services and assortment
12. Employee/management recruitment/retention
13. Regulations
KC's View:
It isn’t surprising that there would be discrepancies between how manufacturers and retailers view things.

But we are struck by the fact that manufacturers rank “consumer health and nutrition” third, while retailer only put it at sixth.

We believe that if retailers are going to truly serve the consumer, they have to be focused first on their needs and desires, understanding their priorities and concerns. These rankings suggest that retailers continue to be more concerned with their own infrastructures and problems, as opposed to putting the customer first.

Not a promising sign.