As I have written before, I spent the first 10 years of my working life in the consumer packaged goods industry. During the first four years I worked for Procter and Gamble, initially buying folding cartons for Crest toothpaste and Head and Shoulders shampoo. Then I spent two years in sales, selling teenage acne and cough and cold products to Boots. I was not too good at that and the people at Procter & Gamble asked me to go and work for a different company. Turns out that was a good thing, because I then spent six years at a market research company called IRI. The company used sales data from supermarkets to help manufacturers sell more and understand the effectiveness of their business strategies. With them I worked in the UK, Turkey and Italy. I am pleased I left the consumer packaged goods industry, but I’m still interested.
I recently visited Waitrose, which is known in the UK as an upscale supermarket. One of the important things about the retail business is the placement of products on the shelf, with eyelevel being the place where manufacturers pay more. In my powered chair I think I am looking one shelf lower than the average consumer.
The visit enabled me to reflect on either the amazing choice which consumers have, or the absurdity of this business; depends on how you see it.
When I was younger you bought tea, now you buy this lot:
Next time you go to your local supermarket, stop for a moment and wonder at the creativity of the human race, satisfying the wants of consumers or creating needs which they never knew they had.