Tim Lowe advised retailers to "be famous for people."
Tim Lowe has been described as a grocery evangelist, and the president of Lowes Foods lived up to that analogy during his session at the recent Grocery Impact event in Orlando, Fla., presented by Progressive Grocer. As he took to the stage on Nov. 9, he shared messages that were at once uplifting and practical for grocers and their partners throughout the industry as they strive to create inspiring experiences and opportunities.
Lowe highlighted the ways that Lowes Foods transformed itself from a onetime rap as “bland” to a destination compete with bakery department cakewalks, sold-out beer “hunt” clubs, communal dinners along local Main Streets and the retailer’s now-signature chicken dance heralding the arrival of fresh chicken in the case. While “eatertainment” and the integration of wit and a provocative approach have distinguished Lowes in its home market in the Carolinas, Lowe shared other imperatives and tips for success in a competitive, splintered marketplace.
“Be famous for people.” Lowe's advice extends to shoppers as much as it does to employees, who are the opposite sides of the same coin. He underscored ways the grocer is making team members feel welcome and appreciated, such as festive “signing days” for new hires and store office walls lined with handwritten “You are a Local Legend” (Y’ALL) expressions of recognition. Engaged, well-trained employees can prevent consumer perceptions that food retailers are falling short in service; Lowe shared one data point showing that 64% of today's shoppers believe that more stores have poorly trained staff now than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Give people a reason to come to your store.” Lowes Foods does a lot in this area, like its charcuterie tastings and happy hours, puzzle nights and flower arrangement workshops. At the center of those events and experiences, Lowe said, is the human connection that will be ever important as technology like artificial intelligence impacts the grocery business.
“If you are going to say it, you have to do it.” Spreading a message is important, but living up to it is even more pivotal, Lowe noted. That extends to associates who are welcomed back after leaving, customers who are promised fresh, flavorful meal solutions and assortments that are touted as clean label.
“It’s time for us to disrupt ourselves.” A catalyst for change at Lowes Foods was the perception that it was ordinary; other grocers can do some similar self-introspection to identify points of disruption to move their business forward and make customers seek out their store.
As retailers and other industry stakeholders look at ways to disrupt themselves, they can go forward with conviction, Lowe pointed out. “We’re going places where other people won’t go and it’s scary, it’s hard. But don’t let that stop you – take the steps forward that you need,” he advised.
Ultimately, he added food retailers who take those steps face an open path. “That’s what it’s all about – creating your own destiny. It starts with all of you, and it starts with a mindset to think differently on how we approach the business,” Lowe declared.