AMBIANCE CAN MAKE ISB A POPULAR DESTINATION

WASHINGTON -- Ambiance can be the determining factor that makes the in-store bakery a destination, one industry expert pointed out.In fact, it can be the single most important attribute that builds a competitive edge, said Bob Beckerman, president and founder, B&D Resource, a Chaska, Minn., consulting firm.Signature products and product quality might be givens, but the thing that most ISBs are not

WASHINGTON -- Ambiance can be the determining factor that makes the in-store bakery a destination, one industry expert pointed out.

In fact, it can be the single most important attribute that builds a competitive edge, said Bob Beckerman, president and founder, B&D Resource, a Chaska, Minn., consulting firm.

Signature products and product quality might be givens, but the thing that most ISBs are not accomplishing is superior execution at store level, Beckerman said.

Before starting his own consulting business, Beckerman was corporate wholesale director, deli-bakery-food service, at SuperValu, Minneapolis. In the supermarket industry since 1957, he has held top management posts at Kroger Co. and Lucky Stores' Northern California division.

"The most successful in-store bakeries know who their customers are and why, and they work hard to keep them," Beckerman said.

Speaking at the recent seminar and expo of the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, he asked the audience to think about where they shop and why -- whether it's for food or clothing or tires.

"Chances are it's because it's an enjoyable experience and gives you a solution. Wherever the seller provides the time and the attention to talk to customers about their desires and needs, it makes a difference."

Beckerman quoted Jim Kowalski, co-owner of Kowalski's Markets, St. Paul, Minn. Kowalski said a few years ago that "there's no loyalty in price, but there is in shopping experience."

Beckerman, who has traveled extensively in his jobs, said he sees only a handful of in-store bakeries that stand out, and it's for different reasons. The common denominator is they've listened to their customers, he said.

"[H.E. Butt Grocery Co.] in southern Texas has a wonderful ethnic awareness. Their focus is right on.

Whole Foods has product distinction. They've effectively linked food shopping with health, and their variety and service is good. It's a great feeling when you walk into a Wegmans bakery. You know there's something special there."

It takes more than basic strategies and merchandising practices to satisfy today's consumers, he added.