Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Change is... Annoying?

Recently I was in the renovated, redesigned, rejiggered, reopened Shaws in Portsmouth. It had been pretty much a mess for a month or so while they did the work, which mainly consisted of moving things around to different aisles make things "easier" for the customers to find. When they were ready, they reopened the store with balloons, fanfare, even an autograph-signing visit with former All-Pro Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett. (See photo. That's me on the left and my brother Todd on the right. What can I say, we were big fans of #56!) Shaws also trotted out Rewards program incentives, like a free turkey after you've spent a certain amount. All this is well and good. I'm sure they have very solid data on how they would increase their dollars-per-square foot with this new design. And certainly, change is inevitable; after all, this particular store opened in 1991, which was... hmmm... 16 years ago according to my computations. That's kinda old these days, especially with Wal-Mart horning in on the grocery store turf. So anyway, when I checked out, the cashier asked me dutifully if I had found everything OK. Sure, I replied. So relieved she was to hear this, she couldn't help herself from remarking "You're the only one!" Hmm...

It reminded me of the responses I've been hearing about the new websites of our local newspapers, The Portsmouth Herald and the Fosters Daily Democrat. They've retooled and relaunched with a bold, modern new looks. Of course, in doing so, they've moved the peas, the frozen pizza, and the organic foods, just like Shaws. Interestingly, The Boston Globe redid their site at about the same time. Clearly, there's a lot of change afoot these days.

When it comes to change, the question for small businesses shouldn't just be, "Is it better for me and my business?" It's got to be, "How will this change affect my customers, and how can I manage the situation to avoid complaints, or even worse, defections?"

So, how are they doing? Have you had trouble finding things in Shaws and on our revamped local news websites? Comment me below and let's find out.

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