U of T Course Registration: NEW location in September!

New Fall 2012 location!  This unique and comprehensive “FUNDAMENTALS OF RETAIL MERCHANDISING”  course is now offered at BOTH St. George Toronto campus and Mississauga UTM

No exams.  Team based assignments

  Toronto Campus Registration: httphttps://2learn.utoronto.ca/uoft/portal/instructor/instructorCourseDetails.do?method=load&sectionId=21745119s:

Mississauga Campus Registration – https://2learn.utoronto.ca/uoft/portal/instructor/instructorCourseDetails.do?method=load&sectionId=20446276

WHAT will I learn? This is not a typical “university” course.  You will be engaged entirely during the 2hr classes (6-8pm).  It is practical, recent and very comprehensive.  Course includes: Brand/Category/Operational topics over and above Merchandising and Marketing.  ALSO: Discussions on planograms/ACN Data analysis/Retail Ad Flyers/Executive Guest Speakers & much more. Retail Focus on: Food Industry (grocery and fresh), Pharmacy/Drug, General Merchandise (Seasonal/Non seasonal), Apparel, etc.

WHO is this course for? If you are in retail, this course is designed for you.  Focused for Brand/Category/Merchandising or Operational backgrounds/interests but also ideal for people as a “general interest course” in retail (marketers, HR, executive assistants, etc).   Whether your company is a large Tier (>500 people-10,000) or a smaller Entrepreneur (5-100 people), this course is designed for you.

Course available since 2008.  Student Course & Instructor Rating: Outstanding

More about Author: http://about.me/davidbartolini#services 


Term: Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance is a term used in retail to describe a customer’s poor post purchase experience.  Simply put, a bad feeling/experience that hangs over them after they leave.  It often leads to regret and seldom, if ever, does the customer return to the Merchant.

All retailers/merchants want to ensure that customers do not have a feeling of BUYERS REMORSE. This  ‘bad feeling’ can come from:

– The product or Brand itself not delivering as promised (ie a Merchant listed a poor product without testing it, or it is an isolated event/ defective product from the manufacturer)

– General feeling of “malaise” due to store atmosphere, location, can’t return it easily/not hassle free, etc

– The experience at the store in general is poor (ie a long customer line up, poor customer service experience, poor lighting, a crazy parking lot!, temperature, etc)

Merchants, try to leave your desk and purchase a product from your store and act as a “secret shopper” (a term used to describe someone who shops to review the WHOLE customer experience).

It won’t matter how good your programs and prices are if the overall customer experience at store level is poor.  They simply won’t come back and your target market will shop elsewhere. 

The challenge: leave your desk and go to your Retailer and ensure customers are happy with your shop experience.

More about Author: http://about.me/davidbartolini#services 

Lost Art of Networking (‘Proactivity’ Defined!)

In my opinion, the term Networking is truly misunderstood (and poorly utilized).  The word is used so often, it is now just lip service.  But I argue, Networking is an art.  It deserves one’s committment and one’s dedicated effort to that art.

First things first: Networking is being proactive, not reactive.  It is about expanding your circle of influence with friends, family, colleagues, etc and building your resource-base continually.  You will reap the fruits of your labour by genuinely and consistently making “deposits” into other’s emotional bank account.

Unfortunately, most people continually make “withdrawals” from this precious emotional account and don’t learn that keeping in touch with people is vital; BUT they learn this when they are vulnerable and ‘alone’ and forced to react (ie they just lost their job or can’t stand their boss).

 “Networking doesn’t stop when you have employment.  If fact, that is where it begins and continues compounding…”


So what is networking and how can it really help us?  Well perhaps the best way to review the term, is to review how it can hinder if one doesn’t  work toward it.

Almost all jobs these days are via “word of mouth” – some say as much as 90%!  A testimonial about you to a prospective employer instantly puts your name ahead of others.
Tips for BOTH employed/unemployed:
–       Start now!  Networking compounds (one contact will lead to another and another!).  So reach out to old bosses, friends, old colleagues!

–       Networking is not only email but also (and more effective methods) the old-fashioned telephone or face to face

–        Pay it forward when you’ve been helped.  Always. 
–        Use LinkedIn or some professional group
–        When someone leaves your corporation, don’t snub them or think you are better.  That thought is myopic, reactive and incorrect.  It is only in the moment.

If you haven’t been unemployed, well done.  But trust me, your time will likely come.  Networking is proactive.  It makes the transition from Unemployed to Employed much smoother, faster, and with less stress.

More about Author: http://about.me/davidbartolini#services 

Consumer “Meal-Solution” Driven Ads…Please apply within.

Almost all FOOD weekly advertisements are the same old format.   Go ahead open up your newspaper this week and check them out.  There is a front page which has specials from several departments.  Inside pages have departments isolated from each other ie produce separated on one page, meat on another, a few pages of grocery and then a back page.

But why don’t retailers create MEAL SOLUTIONS for us worldly consumers? We are all time-starved; everyone is working hard these days.  And let’s face it, many don’t like or know how to cook ….but almost everyone loves to eat great food!  Simple creative culinary adventures should be available at our fingertips weekly!

When everyone is going in the same direction, there is opportunity to do something different


Majority of retailers do it all the same.  Yet they have hundreds of ‘foodies” with vast food recipe knowledge in-house.  Who knew baba ganoush went so well with a meatless BBQ burger, smothered with 2-year-old white aged cheese and fresh avocado?  (No need for ketchup!)   That a spicy Thai sauce goes oh so well with breaded butterfly shrimp!  

Please group these items together in weekly ads for the appropriate season!  Yet retailers continue to create Ads that works for them, in their department silos: grocery, produce, meat, natural value, seafood, deli, bakery, etc. 

Not sure why one retailer won’t create a solution to this opportunity. 

Always challenge the status quo. 

More about Author: http://about.me/davidbartolini#services 

Presentations: Captivating Your Audience (Part II)

Persuasive and powerfully delivered presentations can set the stage for corporate success. Conversely, a poorly executed speech can result in corporate suicide. This is the second in the two-part series looking how to craft a successful presentation.

Let’s start with a presentation “no no”: the dreaded “screen-reader”. A poor presentation is one that is read from the screen or paper. Reading your PowerPoint presentation is not only boring but also sends a message to your audience that you are not confident, not prepared, and/or nervous. Yes, a tough crowd is ‘out’ there…and the proverbial work-force wolves prey upon the weak.

Here’s a 13-point “HOW TO” combat a somniferous, head-nodding, eye-closing speech.
1. EACH slide must have 1 or 2 messages only. Let’s repeat that: 1 or 2 messages relayed per slid. That’s right… the less the better …for both you and the audience.
2. The second trick is to understand the message(s) in the slide and then TALK TO that slide. Use passion and free-flowing words that make it sound natural. A “rehearsed-sounding” presentation is equally as bad as one being read.
3. It’s only the first 1 to 2 minutes that are nerve-wrecking. So pick something that is easy to talk about first – ie an easy first slide, introducing someone, etc. Be comfortable with the first few slides. As you gain ‘speech-rhythm’ you gain momentum and confidence!
4. Your voice is your best friend. Project it. Go into the room before hand and listen to yourself.
5. A tip when answering Questions: if you don’t know, say so! Even subject matter experts don’t know everything. “Good question, let me get back to you,” and make sure you do get back to the questioner; it demonstrates reliability and everyone likes a person who does follow-through on issues. If there is a good question that gets people talking, that’s great! But it can also be distracting and time-consuming. If you need to get people back on track say “Let’s take that off-line for now…”. You control the flow.
6. Know your audience/target market. An executive wants something different from a manager.
7. Be aware of room, the temperature, etc. Drink warm/room temperature water. Cold water with ice is not good and constricts the vocal cords.
8. Be aware of people’s time. Don’t stand up there and pontificate because you have the ‘floor”. People’s attention is limited and the best presentations are pacey and positive.
9. Use visuals or bring in demo’s. Music or videos are also great for breaking up the monotony of a long presentation.
10. Smile, breathe, look people in the eyes. If someone has shifty eyes during a conversation you feel they are ‘untrustworthy’. Likewise, people draw the same conclusion from someone delivering a presentation – look them right in the eyes. You can do the scan-approach – but don’t stare someone down for too long.
11. Be well-groomed. That means iron clothes, neat hair, clean teeth, etc. Also think of what colours to wear – blue or black portray confidence and are not distracting. However, depending on the speech you may wish to dress up.
12. Use humour wherever possible. It breaks the tension. It also gives you speech-rhythm.
13. Practice practice practice.

More about Author: http://about.me/davidbartolini#services 

Tip: The Power of An Effective Presentation

Persuasive and powerfully delivered presentations can set the stage for corporate success. Conversely, a poImageorly executed speech can result in corporate suicide.  This two-part series looks into how to craft a successful presentation.

Effective presentations help define your Personal Brand* (see Blog MARCH 7th) and differentiate your brand – ie presentations that deliver clear, concise and persuasive messages….will drive corporate credibility.  It is generally considered a person who can speak well is organized, has poise, intelligence, and logic (note this is not always the case but directionally true.)

 But how does one do well on presentations?  The answer is actually simple.  Practice practice practice!

It is better to bleed in the dojo than to bleed in the streets

Earl Robertson, Kyoshi (7th degree Blackbelt in Karate-do)

The saying above means practice in a controlled setting.  My Sensei always said the only way to improve your fighting technique was to ‘bleed in the dojo (a controlled setting) than in the street (ie.the board room!)’. 

This sage philosophy holds true for speeches that can be ‘messy’ if stumbled, unpractised, incoherent and in front of Senior Management.  Controlled settings include – Speech Masters, taking a course(s) or practicing in a quiet room or in front of a mirror.  Practice in the VERY room you are going to present as well (check audio, feel the room temperature and how your voice carries).  

Tips:  Presentation content and understanding your target market is always essential.  We will delve deeper in a later blog.

More about Author: http://about.me/davidbartolini#services 

*Personal Brand  – consider it as your IMAGE (online or other) – this includes but is not limited to the body, clothing, appearance, online presence, etc, leading to an indelible impression that is uniquely distinguishable.

University of Toronto Mississauga Course – Fundamentals of Retail Merchandising & Marketing

FALL 2012 UTM course details – it’s never to early to plan!


Course begins 19 Sep 2012 to 12 Dec 2012.  Enroll now (above link).

Who is this course for? 

Ideal for general interest in retail (marketers, HR, executive assistants, etc).  Focused for people with Brand/Category/Merchandising or Operational backgrounds/interests.  If you are in retail – either a huge Tier 1 company or an Entrepreneur, this course is designed for you.

What will I learn?

This is not a typical university course.  It is practical, recent and very comprehensive.  Course includes: Brand/Category/Operational topics over and above Merchandising/Marketing.  ALSO: Discussions on planograms/ACN Data analysis/Retail Ad Flyers/Executive Guest Speakers & much more. 

Student Course Rating: Outstanding.

No exams.  Team based assignments.

Fundamentals of Packaging Design: Case Study “SmartSpud”

Packaging design is the visual representation of your product or brand.  It is the interface between the consumer and your product; and therefore it is vitally important you represent your product well and accurately to the consumer.

Product design can drive impulse purchases, reinforce brand message/equity, and visually stimulate consumers (either positively or negatively).  Below, we review some packaging design fundamentals for one product, The Smart Spud – a product that today resonates well with consumers; it is a Low Carbohydrate product which is designed to be interpreted as a “healthier” option.

But before design, however, we must observe the 4 P’s (Marketing Mix) of the Smart Spud (Note: Target Market are people with higher disposable incomes who love potatoes but don’t want to feel guilty about the carbohydrates they consume):

Product – The Product is a unique and premium potato product.  Low Carb potato, a ‘lighter’ option

Place – Only “Great Food” format stores, not discount stores

Price – 25% retail $ premium to other poly bag potatoes

Promotions – not applicable

Given that the Smart Spud is a high-end, healthier potato option, it is important all 4 P’s are congruent with the “premium & healthier” message (as well as design and the type of packaging used).   If the marketing mix is conflicting (ie a premium ingredient product with a discounted price?!), it will confuse consumers and weaken equity in your brand/product.

Let’s review the DESIGN strategy of this product:

The Name: Smart Spud – reinforces and/or hints at a “smart potato option”

–          Minimalistic design is used.  Minimalistic can be interpreted as “upscale”

–          Supporting Images – usually secondary and reinforce a  “healthier” message – in this case a waist-band measurement strap at the top of the bag design is used (difficult to see on image)

–          Colour – The predominate colours used are White (which reinforces the product is not “rich or heavy” but light and airy) and Blue (Blue is the standard in Canada to connote “healthier” option ie see President’s Choice Blue Menu sub Brand).  Therefore, we are borrowing the equity of an existing sub brand which already resonates ‘healthier’ with consumers.  We don’t need to recreate another.

–          Photo – note the use of a “serving suggestion” photograph.  In this case, a “mash potato” in a premium blue bowl is used.  It is simple and can be healthy.  A baked potato could have been used, however, baked potatoes can be synonymous with a “Loaded Potato” – ie sour cream, chives, bacon, etc.  Potentially marring our image of the healthy option.

 Remember, marketing and marketing design are subjective – this means they are open to interpretation.  While some design principles used above may work for this product, they may not for all.  What is important is you have an understanding of design basics, the market, and that your message is consistent with the 4P’s of marketing.  Consistent messages drive equity in your product.

More about Author: http://about.me/davidbartolini#services

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

How do you distinguish yourself from others in the rat-race?  More specifically, how do you create a unique and professional Personal Brand*(PB)

One significant way to differentiate your PB, is to launch new products into the market – it can create such a buzz!  But the key is to work strategically with your vendors and push them to be creative and submit product concepts regularly.  In my experience do not discount smaller vendors – they are aggressive and entrepreneurial and want to grow market share.

And when something exciting is submitted, it is now where you utter: I want EXCLUSIVITY!” (refer to Blog Feb 17th before launching nationally).  

Tips to securing Exclusivity

–          Remember WIN/WIN philosophy always prevails!  The vendor needs to profit (at least in long run)

–          Create a promotion schedule with the vendor – how much will be invested? (ie you can advertise in-store  promotions  and/or distributed flyers).   Show a willingness to set the product ‘up for success’

–          Inform Vendor they will get merchandising space/planogram and that you will give promotional space in advertisements

Exclusivity will do the following for a Merchant:

–          Create brand loyalty to your category and the Company – you are the only show in town!

–          Differentiate you from colleagues and the business in general: The BUZZ factor!

–          Demonstrate your business acumen and vendor relations

Below, I include an item where Exclusivity was secured – The Smart Spud Potato (still on shelves today).  I mention it because you never know when/what category will get a unique product ideal for exclusivity – ie the Potato category was considered a boring “commodity” category and an area where creativity was looooooooong gone.

But this was launched just when the Atkinson diet was popular (low carb diets);  the vendor had exclusivity for the potato seed and in order to get exclusive rights for the Company, I negotiated to do the design and select the packaging type and support promoting it. 

Stay tuned next week – we will discuss how Merchants/Brand Managers can build equity in their products by successful product design.  I will discuss the design and methodology of this unique product. Packaging Design is key… and below is a good example we will expound upon next week.  Some vendors want to own design….but that doesn’t mean you can’t give them feedback if it is going on your shelves!


More about Author: http://about.me/davidbartolini#services

*Personal Brand  – consider it as your IMAGE (online or other) – this includes but is not limited to the body, clothing, appearance, online presence, etc, leading to an indelible impression that is uniquely distinguishable.

Easter Preparation! Merchants and Operators

Here’s a tip on how you can maximize the number eggs in your basket!

 “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”


A great tip to set your Operators up for success (store managers, etc) is to plan “Over and Above” programs for your stores.  Now this doesn’t mean more work for them to execute.  No!  These proactive programs help them, while simultaneously demonstrating a deeper understanding of the importance of “the day”, and how you, as a Merchant, can be a team player.  Be always excellent.

 As Merchants, it’s easy to forget that Operators are implementing our strategies and promotions on days when thousands and thousands of people are coming to shop (while many are feasting!).  Operators are working hard and we need to make their life easier.  They need to execute and maximize sales while decreasing shrink; we want them on the floor with as little stress as possible.

 One great way to support your Operators is to provide them, by department, with a FAST and SLOW moving report. 

 A Fast/Slow moving report (by department!) is essential; it includes products that are frequently consumed (or not) during the Easter Holidays .  It reviews the top and slowest moving items (20-25 items only), in any department. ie For example, Produce Department would include Potatoes, Onions, Carrots, etc on Fast report and maybe Oranges, Ethnic produce items on Slow report.    

 You can provide this data as such:

     –  Large font! (most operators can’t view the file and make sure it is on Excel they can read/open)

     –  Be able to print on one page!

     –  Summarize each sku (sku = product or stock keeping unit) and then customize the movement BY STORE – not one generic report.  Each store has unique demographics!

     –  Include daily movement by store (not just for the entire week) for each item, using history from the previous year

     –  Provide Operators with a special planogram for each Department with key and promoted items (but keep it simple they don’t want to spend labour on elaborate planograms at this time)

 If you are seeing 5% growth (or decline) from previous year, adjust and tell them your methodology.  Also, offer to help a store for a few hours on “the day” – even collecting random buggies in the parking lot is a huge help.

 Being a team player maximizes camaraderie and from such efforts, one receives the serendipitous fruit of outstanding results!  Be excellent every day.   We are we repeatedly do…so never forget, excellence is a habit.

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