Why retailers aren’t feeling the love

What's worse than a lazy Valentine? Hunter Straker VP Sheri Pearson on how stores should help millennials build experiences.

By Sheri Pearson

It could have been a much happier Valentine’s Day for brands and retailers if they knew how to maximize the potential of the holiday. I visited typical mass, drug and grocery stores recently to see how they were showcasing this big event, and there was very little to make my heart go pitter-patter.

Consistently, I saw large red and pink displays dominated by chocolates, stuffed animals and the occasional bucket filled with flowers. Cliché, but they do move product – and why not, with that sort of in-store prominence?

But there is a huge gap between what people are buying and what they really desire.

Hunter Straker conducted a survey of 400 Canadians this past weekend and found most millennials and Gen-Xers do give gifts on Valentine’s Day, with the highest percentage of “active” givers being millennials. But, as the largest opportunity group, what do they look for? Millennials love authenticity and local, artisan goods; they value experiences over material items; they have sophisticated and adventurous palates. Stuffed toy anyone? It’s time to capitalize on what we know about this affluent group and start offering them what they really want.

Think: passion for food

Millennials surveyed said they would like to receive a Valentine’s Day “experience,” so why not make it a food experience? How about a tasting menu offered at the on-the-go or deli counter? Or perhap, international recipes featuring exotic flavours, courtesy of the ethnic products aisle in your store. Maybe it’s dinner ideas that turn the spotlight on niche, centre-store items, including premium foods like fresh cuts of meat. Finally, why not create an à la carte gift basket station, overflowing with decadent foods – a veritable playground for building the perfect basket of love. Passion runs deep, so explore the breadth of possibilities.

Think: indulgence and pampering

A significant percentage of panel respondents said they also wanted a romantic experience or spa day, so these are great themes to explore at retail.

I saw Shoppers Drug Mart and Walmart both expanding their chocolate and stuffed animal propositions by bundling with things like rich fragrance gift sets and cosmetic specials. But again, where’s the experience? There is still time to include an indulgent, free makeover for the ladies.

Think: special times

We also heard “time with my loved one” resonating strongly, so inspiring shoppers to buy with entertainment in mind might be an ideal way to win their hearts.

Is it any wonder why Pizza Pizza is bundling their heart-shaped pie with a two-for-one movie pass this year? Walmart had the right idea, too, with their Valentine’s Day movie display, situated in front of electronics. Bundle that with a big popcorn bowl from housewares, plus a selection of tasty snacks from grocery, and it not only becomes a thoughtful gift, but look at that shopping basket now!

Think: bottom line

The key is to make it easy for shoppers to build the experiences they want – either via proximity merchandising or by intriguing them with compelling communications that guide them as they search for the perfect gift. Next year, I challenge brands and retailers to think again. How can you inspire millennials to reach beyond the fleeting love that lingers inside a box of chocolates? Think gifts and themes that align with shopper insights, encouraging them to purchase beyond the box.

Show those millennials more love and they will reciprocate in kind – with their shopping dollars – helping you deliver on your best event yet. Now that’s a happy Valentine’s Day.

_MG_5313[1]Sheri Pearson is VP of retail insights and strategy at Hunter Straker.

Featured image courtesy Shutterstock