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Mount Saint Vincent University
Retailing Management
Daniel Wadden
BUSI 3332
Retailing Management
Daniel Wadden
BUSI 3332
Mount Saint Vincent University
Table of Contents
Jill’s Table: Digitizing a Retail Legacy…………………………………………………………………………………..5
Mountain Equipment Co-op: The Private Label Strategy……………………………………………………….17
Target Corporation: The Grocery Business in the Bull’s Eye………………………………………………….33
Janice Zolf wrote this case under the supervision of Professor Raymond Pirouz solely to provide material for class discussion. The
authors do not intend to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a managerial situation. The authors may have disguised
certain names and other identifying information to protect confidentiality.
This publication may not be transmitted, photocopied, digitized or otherwise reproduced in any form or by any means without the
permission of the copyright holder. Reproduction of this material is not covered under authorization by any reproduction rights
organization. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, contact Ivey Publishing, Ivey Business School, Western
University, London, Ontario, Canada, N6G 0N1; (t) 519.661.3208; (e);
Copyright © 2014, Richard Ivey School of Business Foundation
Version: 2014-03-20
As the owner of a small business, Jill Wilcox always saw the potential for growth. Since 1999, Jill’s
Table, Wilcox’s kitchenware and specialty food store in London, Ontario (Canada), had been a culinary
destination for foodies, chefs, Food Network aficionados and customers seeking expert advice and the
latest cutting-edge products for their kitchens (see Exhibit 1). As Jill’s Table prepared for its busiest
month of the year, Wilcox also contemplated embracing a much wider clientele beyond her loyal
customer base. Having built a business, one face-to-face relationship at a time, Wilcox was unsure
whether her success in a bricks-and-mortar environment could provide a comparable experience online.
How would she translate the personal connection to her customers from traditional commerce to
eCommerce? If Jill’s Table improved its website and, with each click, offered its unique products sourced
from suppliers around the world to a new online customer, would the retailer lose a connection to its
devoted in-store customers? Should Wilcox market with the online consumer in mind, focus on her loyal
customer in her bricks-and mortar-environment or try to find a balanced approach without alienating
either customer segment?
In 1999, Jill Wilcox, a writer and food stylist with her own business, the Creative Palette, was known in
Southwestern Ontario for her weekend columns in the London Free Press, which she had been writing for
20 years. In her weekly column, Wilcox often recommended her faithful readers try an unusual specialty
ingredient that she featured in a recipe. A good friend challenged her to take a leap and open a retail store
to sell the wonderful ingredients and kitchen accessories she wrote about. Wilcox took the plunge and
never looked back. She donned a hard hat and work boots and got to work painting, designing, buying
stock and organizing the plumbing, electrical and light fixtures for her new retail concept; a 500-squarefoot store in London’s Covent Garden Market.
Despite a lack of retail experience, Wilcox described the launch of her business as “the most exhilarating
experience I’ve ever had.” The London entrepreneur started with a Mediterranean theme, slowly
developed a following and even won a couple of awards at the market for customer service. She put in 12-
For use only in the course Retailing Management at Mount Saint Vincent University taught by Daniel Wadden from January 07, 2020 to April 30, 2020.
Use outside these parameters is a copyright violation.
to 14-hour days, six days a week and developed a growing mailing list. In 2002, Jill’s Table moved across
the street from the small retail corner in the market, to a 2,000-square-foot store. This move marked a
turning point: Jill’s Table was now able to expand and offer everything from cooking classes to tableware
to top-of-the-line ingredients sourced from suppliers around the globe. Said Wilcox, “Everything for the
food lover, if you love to cook you’ll come in here and find what you need.”
Relationships Translated to the Customer
Wilcox’s philosophy had always been to build her store, “slow and steady” by getting to know her
customers’ needs and delivering products to enhance their experience in the kitchen. As a food journalist
Wilcox had established relationships with chefs and growers, often sharing their expertise with her own
customers. She became a food scout, relying on her journalistic curiosity to discover the next great food
product at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco or the year’s cutting-edge kitchen gadget at North
America’s biggest housewares show in Chicago. Suppliers began to recognize Wilcox, appreciating her
culinary expertise and passion for the business. Wilcox made connections with important people at these
shows, such as the family behind Emile Henry, the fifth-generation French maker of ceramic bowls and
bakeware. She developed relationships with key distributors, finding products such as anchovy-stuffed
olives from Spain, “for years the single best-selling item in the store by volume”. Each specialty product
she sourced had a story, which Wilcox gladly shared with her customers. Wilcox also drew on her
connections with culinary experts such as Paula Wolfert who she met at a European food conference. The
famous cookbook author introduced her to smoked paprika from Spain and Wilcox, filled her suitcase
with the distinctive spice to bring back to Canada. When asked about the small red tins she proudly
boasted of the discovery: “I can count many products we were first to come to market with because we
were able to seek them out.” A cooking class on Sicilian food led to extra “buzz” when Wilcox brought
out olive oil sourced directly from a producer in Sicily. The class was a sell-out success:
Our customers continue to love that product; we have an aggressive sampling program as well.
We make sure our customers can try the product, whether it’s our own olive oil or one of our
supplier’s. We keep in direct contact with our suppliers so that’s a relationship we value.
The Jill’s Table customers loved the connections, feeling one step closer to the celebrity purveyor of the
Jill’s Table had built its reputation by offering distinctive products, such as foie gras, a product not
available at her competitors’ stores. In 2012, the store commissioned a hand woven tea towel from
Sweden, adorned with a Jill’s Table logo; it became the perfect add-on to gift baskets. Jill’s Table’s
philosophy of narrowing the choice for the consumer to the best product available was exemplified in its
offerings of sherry vinegar (four varieties), chosen by taste-testing dozens. Balsamic pearls were the latest
hot product; they provided an instant kick to salads and appetizers. Fleur de sel, which capitalized on the
sea salt craze, was sourced from three regions and was specially selected with customers’ cooking needs
in mind.
An essential ingredient that was the best product available was the main criterion for shelf space in Jill’s
Table. The store’s mark up was standard, not a premium mark up as was often the case in high-end
kitchen stores. Customers loved that Wilcox had done the research and offered them top quality — and
For use only in the course Retailing Management at Mount Saint Vincent University taught by Daniel Wadden from January 07, 2020 to April 30, 2020.
Use outside these parameters is a copyright violation.
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We consider that a real value-add; if you pick this up, we are going to tell you what to do with it
and we might even just give you a recipe and it’s that exchange and sharing . . . our customers
really value that.
The combination had bred loyalty; some customers made Jill’s Table a frequent destination, stopping by
weekly to see what was new. Jill’s Table recently discontinued carrying electric appliances, such as
coffee makers, as repair services were no longer available in the city. Wilcox continued, however, to carry
a high-end blender called Vitamix, which had a good margin and warranty.
Wilcox believed the key to the success of Jill’s Table was building the business on superior customer
service and product knowledge, delivered to the customer every day. As the author of five cookbooks,
Wilcox operated on the floor as a consultant. The staff was well trained and had researched each product.
According to Wilcox:
We give our team members products to take home and work with so they can talk with great
authority on them, whether it’s a food product — balsamic vinegar or olive oil — or a pan in our
cooking classes. We want to be the expert and have all the information the customer needs.
She also paid her staff a wage higher than the norm in retail. Wilcox stressed the importance of having a
solid team and a warm supportive work environment, which had engendered loyalty with the staff, some
of whom had been at the store for 13 years.
The Jill’s Table team sampled many of the products that went on the shelves. Many vendors wanted the
shop to carry their products, but the storeowner believed a product needed to be extraordinary to be
considered a specialty item synonymous with the Jill’s Table brand. The store’s mandate was to stay
ahead of the curve, which Wilcox believed was crucial to maintaining customer loyalty.
Wilcox strove to enrich her own food education. She hosted annual food tours to France, shopped at local
French markets, taught classes in France (see Exhibit 2) and brought her new knowledge back to the retail
store. She read constantly and visited the great restaurants of the world to learn what the chefs were
doing. Behind the scenes, Wilcox researched and explored continually, looking for the next great food
product and story to share with customers.
The market for specialty foods and kitchen tools had increased since Wilcox first opened Jill’s Table in
1999. Aside from the big-box stores, such as Walmart and Canadian Tire, Wilcox viewed her competition
as high-end kitchenware company Williams-Sonoma and, more recently, the world’s largest online
company, Amazon. These companies sold kitchen utensils, baking tools and the latest kitchen accessories,
many of which Jill’s Table also carried. In addition, the competition offered customers in Canada and the
United States a streamlined online shopping experience through well-designed websites, and some
offered free shipping. Where Jill’s Table differed was in the bricks-and-mortar competitive market. The
For use only in the course Retailing Management at Mount Saint Vincent University taught by Daniel Wadden from January 07, 2020 to April 30, 2020.
Use outside these parameters is a copyright violation.
gave them personal attention while they perused the product. Wilcox cited her famous smoked paprika as
an example:
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Whereas other kitchen retailers sold products, Jill’s Table merchandised them, putting products together
to give the consumer ideas on how to use them. The staff had become experts at “bundling” products —
creating must-have gift packages that were creative, enticing and functional. For example, Jill’s Table
offered hand-carved wooden charcuterie boards, made by a local artisan and packaged with “really good
compote, a cocktail napkin and crackers.” These bundled products created “one-stop shopping” for
corporations and individuals to purchase as special-occasion gifts. Another bundled product was the
retailer’s best-selling pizza stone packaged in a gift basket with tomato sauce, a pizza cutter and a pizza
cookbook. The store was one of French bakeware manufacturer Emile Henry’s best independent retailers,
selling hundreds of its red clay bowls. Jill’s Table used the bowls as a basket, packaging them with a
cookbook, whisk, olive oil, and — in some cases — Jill’s Table branded tea towel from Sweden. By
ordering an entire skid (500) of a discontinued bowl, the store was able to push its supplier for a better
deal: “We have done large volume buying so we have been able to negotiate better pricing, which has
been very important for a small independent store.” Each package, whether a bowl or a board, used
creative packaging to tell a story to become a signature of the business. This creative merchandizing was
crucial in the fourth quarter, when Jill’s Table made 40 per cent of its annual sales.
Over the past 14 years, Jill’s Table had become a trusted brand, known for high-end, well-researched
products and specialty foods that enhanced the kitchen experience. Staff referred to Wilcox by her first
name; for example, responding to the customer with: “These are Jill’s favourite capers; she sources them
from a supplier in Greece.” In the food culture of London, Ontario, when someone referred to “Jill,” no
last name was needed; her name was synonymous with the expert in food knowledge. Wilcox capitalized
on the naturally evolved brand, turning to private labelling for some of the store’s own products, which
she hoped would, through eCommerce, broaden the store’s customer appeal outside of London, Ontario.
In addition to Jill’s Table’s own olive oil from Tuscany, the retailer also offered its own tea towel, handwoven in Sweden and whisks with a branded Jill’s Table logo. Jill’s Table was also in the process of
negotiating with the major German knife manufacturer, Wusthof, to have its own branded knife. Wilcox
was also considering other private-branded products, such as a mustard that was one of her “essentials”
for the kitchen. Essentials was also both the theme and title of her most recent cookbook (available both
in store and online), which featured recipes every cook needed to know (see Exhibit 2).
Annual revenue at Jill’s Table was $2 million (see Exhibit 3). Kitchenware accounted for 25 per cent of
total revenue, the largest income generator at Jill’s Table, bringing in $500,000 in sales per year.
Housewares, which included kitchen tools, bowls, wooden boards and tableware (dishes), had a 100 per
cent mark-up, the norm in the industry. Specialty food, which had a 60 per cent mark-up, accounted for
20 per cent of revenue. Cookware also contributed to 20 per cent of revenue, or $400,000 per year.
Tableware accounted for 15 per cent of revenue, bringing in $300,000 annually. Classes generated 20 per
Revenue figures have been disguised to preserve company privacy.
For use only in the course Retailing Management at Mount Saint Vincent University taught by Daniel Wadden from January 07, 2020 to April 30, 2020.
Use outside these parameters is a copyright violation.
store had an “old general store” quality to it, where the purchase was made special because of handpicked merchandise that was offered with personal customer service.
cent of revenue, bringing in $200,000 annually, while gift baskets, at 5 per cent of revenue, contributed
$100,000 of annual sales, most being sold during the fourth quarter leading up to the holiday season.
Electric appliances (juicers and blenders) with $100,000 in annual sales also contributed 5 per cent of
total revenues.
Since 1999, Jill’s Table had mailed to its growing base of 3,000 customers, a newsletter to promote new
products, announce cooking classes and share recipes. In November 2013, Jill’s Table phased out the
expensive, twice per year mail promotion and moved to an eLetter format. This option proved to be cost
effective and allowed Wilcox to email her customers more frequently with last-minute content, thereby
growing the number of recipients. By 2013, the store had developed a twitter account (@jillstable) with a
following of 400+, an Instagram account and a Facebook account with 300+ friends. Wilcox used social
media to share food photographs and recipes and to promote special events in the store. She recognized
the need to build the Facebook account with additional content to help build the customer base (see
Exhibit 4):
I love my smartphone, I love the fact that I can take a picture and flip over to Instagram. I can hit
my Twitter feed and Facebook and have a pretty good picture along with a caption from
anywhere in the world. I think that’s phenomenal and suits me because it’s short and sweet and I
like to get things done quickly.
Wilcox had recently hired the marketing firm of Lashbrook Marketing & Public Relations to improve
Jill’s Table’s marketing (see Exhibit 1), social media platforms and enable the transition to emarketing.
Through brainstorming sessions, Jill’s Table was determining the core values of the business and learning
more about its target customer. The business was also focusing on untapped customer segments and
strategies for expanding its clientele and retail revenues without alienating its existing customer base.
Wilcox had divided this customer base into four key customer segments (see Exhibit 5):
1. The Raving Fans and Food Mavens: Aged 45–65, mostly 50+. Social media savvy. This group was
Jill’s Table’s strongest clientele, most of whom lived within walking distance (i.e., the city areas
known as Old North and Wortley Village) and were committed to the downtown core. These food
mavens hosted frequent dinner parties, enjoyed using the latest culinary tools and specialty food
items, and visited the story weekly for their “fix.”
2. Discoverers: Aged 35–45. Social media savvy. This 50/50 mix of women and men led busy lives with
work and family. This group was motivated by shopping downtown, interested in sustainability and in
eating and shopping locally. They also sought knowledge about ingredients and quality cookware.
3. Foodies: Aged 30–60. Social media savvy. This group was passionate about food. Some were purists;
most were avid fans of the Food Network. They sought special ingredients for baking and cooking.
4. Holiday Shoppers: Aged 45–80. This customer lived downtown or travelled to the core as a
destination shopper. This customer shopped at Jill’s Table as a holiday tradition, motivated by the
opportunity for a unique purchase and a great customer experience.
As Jill Wilcox contemplated selling some of her products online, she considered the challenges of
competing in a saturated online market. How would she be able to meet the demand for her products?
What products should she make available to an online market? Jill’s Table had revamped its website a
For use only in the course Retailing Management at Mount Saint Vincent University taught by Daniel Wadden from January 07, 2020 to April 30, 2020.
Use outside these parameters is a copyright violation.
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With 10,000 stock keeping units in the store, how should a small retail outlet proceed to catalogue and
select the right products and prepare them for shipping? What essential tools for the kitchen would be
easy to ship? With 2,000 square feet available below the store level, Wilcox considered using that space
for product storage rather than renting an off-site warehouse.
Wilcox was also aware that the competition offered free shipping, which could be very costly to the
retailer. Should she absorb that cost (wh…
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