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Nonprofit Retail – Intentionally?

05/20/2010

Retail has been in the doldrums since the 3rd quarter of 2008. The shells of vacant big box retailers litter the suburban landscape across the USA. Even retailers like Target hit the wall and watched their customers race to Walmart in search of the lowest price (forget style).

It’s no secret that consumers’ belt tightening has hit other sectors such as restaurants, auto dealers, etc.

But here’s one that defies business logic. The brain trust at Panera Bread Co. rolled out its first (INTENTIONALLY) nonprofit store.

Whaaaat?

As Craig Ferguson would say “Whaaaaat?”

That’s right. Panera Bread Co. has taken the PC thing a bit too far! Again, the brain trust at Panera said to themselves, I know…this slogan will drive our company out of the doldrums – “TAKE WHAT YOU NEED, LEAVE YOUR FAIR SHARE”.

The first location in upscale Clayton, MO is the beachhead for planned locations in virtually every city where Panera operates. What do those guys from Guinness Beer say?, “Brilliant!”

What do Panera customers say? “This is a little hard, I can’t wrap my head around this,” said regular customer Dawn Frierdich. Ms. Frierdich came in to buy three loaves of bread and an iced tea. She asked how much the drink would cost.

“About $1.85”, said the cashier. “And the whole bread order?” asked Frierdich. “It would be, like $12.” replied the cashier.

I don’t know about you but this sounds like the sure-fire formula for success. I don’t even wish Panera well in this experiment. A business model that makes your customers uncomfortable in the transaction such as “Am I paying too little?” (guilt) or “Am I getting screwed?” (taken) is flat-out dumb. In this day and age there’s no room for bone-headed business decisions to be made. Be a business (which exists to benefit its shareholders, employees and customers) or be a cooperative farm in eastern Oregon. There’s nothing but no man’s land in between.

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