Recession Insights From Zeller’s CEO

I just read an interesting article about Mark Foote, CEO of the Canadian retailer Zellers. Since Zellers is a discounter, the down economy is helping its business. But Foote isn’t just sitting back and pegging his company’s growth on the recession. Here are several things that he’s working on:

  • Lowering the prices on 250 key items from paper towels to ironing boards
  • Designing in-store displays and signage to more actively communicate price savings
  • Putting more focus on its higher-margin apparel category with products that mimic upscale brands like Lululemon
  • Pruning up to 25% of the inventory to concentrate on the products that are most important for its target shoppers: “mom and her kids.”
  • Looking for ways to more radically change the Zeller store experience in the future

According to Foote:

A new Zellers store would stop them in the first few feet and give them a moment of pause. A great new store builds on but changes the character of the brand.

My take: Foote’s actions highlight the importance of four questions that every senior executive should be asking in the midst of this economic downturn:

  1. What’s our core value proposition and how does it translate in this economic environment?
  2. How can we more aggressively tailor products, services, and experiences to meet the needs of our most important customers?
  3. How can we deliver more value and make sure customers recognize that value?
  4. Despite the focus on tactics in an economic downturn, how can we maintain progress on our long-term strategies?

The bottom line: Navigating through a recession takes active leadership

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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