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Operations combines the in-stock availability of products that consumers purchase regularly and price consistency. Unlike other amplifier pillars such as Digital, Operations became only slightly more important in driving retailer preference during the Covid Era compared to pre-Covid. Meaning, Operations maintains the same tertiary level of importance in contributing to both the long-term success and short-term Covid gains or losses for grocery retailers.

The Top Quartile for Operations are mostly a mix of wholesalers and traditional retailers. Note that Ralphs, Trader Joe's, Fry's Foods, and ShopRite all tie for 7th place in Operations, with Trader Joe's and ShopRite as the only two of these retailers making it to the First Quartile Overall. These distinguish themselves from the other two banners in their strong Price and Quality performance with customers.

Of all the pillars, retailer rankings in Operations showed the most volatility versus past years, likely due to retailers' varying ability to grapple with supply chain challenges and manage Covid-induced panic buying. The typical change in rank amongst retailers was the highest for Operations, with a retailer fluctuating around seven spots on average. Such fluctuation hints that gains in this area might be temporary. HyVee and Smith's made the greatest leaps in their Operations ranking this year. Both retailers remain situated squarely in the Third Quartile Overall, but both HyVee's and Smith's showing in Operations combined with their Discounts, Rewards & Information performance did nudge their Covid momentum and contribute to short-term market share gains. Fareway's twenty-two spot vault in improving Operations customer perceptions combined with its impressive performance in Speed helped secure it a spot in the Second Quartile Overall.

Operations and Covid: Voice of the customer

"In the beginning of the Covid experience, it was very hard to find common items, but that has improved over the last 2 months. Prices have gone up on everything."

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Retail leaders must objectively understand how their business currently considers Customers before trying to set a more Customer-centric direction and focus. There are some formal assessment methodologies, like dunnhumby's Retail Preference Index (RPI) and Customer Centricity Assessment (CCA), which offer detailed evaluations of a business' capabilities, strengths and weaknesses based on Customer perceptions (RPI) or global best practices (CCA).

The approach outlined below is not intended to replace these formal tools; rather, these observations are intended as a kind of 'toe in the water' to help retail leaders form early hypotheses and points of views. These are rules of thumb, heuristics culled from global experience. Later, leaders might use these observations to informally check progress from time to time as a way of assessing whether the "program in the stores matches the program in our heads".

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