There is a commonly observed phenomenon that consumers can be happier with less choice. Fewer options makes it easier to decide and customers are generally happier with their final decisions. That is the starting point for a story on Marketplace (Stores offer less so we can spend more, May 13). Customers may be just as happy with less options and firms have been hard up for cash so there is alignment of the stars and retailers have been cutting their assortments. Walmart, for example, has announced plans to cut the number of items in the store by 15%. But as the article notes, this isn’t just huge firms like Walmart.
Lorrain Schuchart is the Head of PR for craft supplier Jo-Ann Fabrics.
Lorrain Schuchart: The retailers were just trying to give the customer everything, and I think now we’re trying to find out what it is that they actually want and let’s not give them 20 selections when they really only want three.
And it’s not just a matter of removing items from shelves; Jo-Ann’s is completely redesigning 75 of its locations this year.
So far, Schuchart says the new stores are outperforming the old ones by 12 percent.
The article goes on to discuss a loyal Jo-Ann’s customer first visit to a redesigned store. She gripes about how her usual store is cramped and that the aisle layout makes no senses. She then gushes that the new store is so much easier to get around etc etc.
Listening to this story made me wonder how much of this is about consumers inability to cope with variety and how much is about the firm’s incompetence in managing its assortment and in store experience. I freely admit that a paradox of choice exists. Given lots of options, I sweat the details trying to find the perfect choice. At the same time, though, how you present and manage variety also matters. If the customer’s gripe is with how wide aisles are and poorly laid out the store is, this seems much more about cramming too much into one box. That may be too many units of a limited assortment or it may be a few units of too many SKUs.