One of the fallacies of retailing is that stores compete in terms of selling items. Of course they need to sell items to make money but they do that by attracting customers (or rather, shopping trips).
The more attractive a store is, i.e. the greater the share of shopping trips it wins, the more it sells. And this is the real retail battle.
The more shoppers a store attracts the more brands will compete to buy their shelf space. In a way a store is like a TV station, it needs to attract viewers so that advertisers will pay a lot for the little bit of advertising space it has to sell. Stores work to attract shoppers so that they can take a bigger slice of brand owner’s sales to consumers.
Store owners can easily lose sight of this. They do strange things like try to trap consumers in store, making it harder for them to find the things they buy regularly in the vain hope that they will spend more in the store if they are trapped there for longer. This is not a good way to earn repeat shopping trips.
Category management systems can send stores astray. Each category manager wants only to increase sales of their category, and loses sight of the bigger picture, which is for the store to win a greater share of all the shoppers.
It’s the brand marketers (the store’s suppliers) who want to sell specific items. If they want the store to stock their items, and to give better display space then they need to show that doing so will make the store more attractive to shoppers. That their brand will help the store win shopping trips from the other retailers. When you think about it this way one realises that price specials are just one very small part of making a store attract more shoppers.
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Does the same go for online retail sites? That is to say, do online retail sites compete for site visits rather than selling items?
I suspect so. People have very limited repertoires of online stores (just the same way they have limited repertoires of brick stores) so getting into as many repertoires as possible would seem to be the number one priority.