"Several years ago when I was working for Scrivner in Oklahoma City we would do consumer research studies. One question we would ask is what was the primary reason for choosing their favourite supermarket? We had the usual canned answers such as convenience, fast checkouts, quality perishables, etc. However, one store we ended up with some write-in answers, most of which was “we like the manager.” That certainly answered the question why that store was doing so well when it really had no obvious positive attributes. The store manager was the X Factor.
Often I will come across a supermarket that appears quite ordinary yet is has extraordinary high sales per square foot. It’s important that I find out what their X Factor is.
Trader Joe’s has the highest sales per square foot of any supermarket chain in the United States. Why? We can point out all of their strengths such as unique products, quality, pricing, Two Buck Chuck wine, and friendly employees. However, there are many stores who can make those claims. There is an X Factor that has made Trader Joe’s into a cult. Other successful chains like WinCo, Hy-Vee, Publix, Wegmans, and HEB have something extra going beyond what is visible. It’s not what these large chains do I’m interested in. I’m interested in what a small ordinary independent does to achieve extraordinary results.
Usually, the X Factor can be attributed to a compelling employee. Maybe one who is always smiling, singing, or entertaining children? I’ve seen store managers or an employee who is the go-to person for all your problems. He can make a phone call and immediately connect you with someone who can help. The cashier who everyone likes to ring up their groceries. The bagger who always cheers you up and makes you feel better about yourself.
For many years I would see Marty the Amtrak conductor on my commute to Chicago. He kept us entertained the entire trip. The children loved him and he always had something for them.
At a hotel in Bermuda, we had Carvel the singing doorman. He not only entertained us in the morning he was also well connected to everyone on the island so if you need anything, he knew someone who could help.
Stew Leonard has made a series of funny videos often shown inside the stores. I think every store owner needs to show they are human. Stew stars himself in the videos visiting a cattle ranch and a dairy farm (search YouTube). Probably no other store has done more to create an X Factor than Stew Leonards."
By David Livingstone