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 an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

2 thoughts on “Recession Insights From Zeller’s CEO”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.