A story about a hand cart

I’m a daily commuter to Toronto, traveling from the outskirts of the big city to the downtown core each and every day, weather permitting.  My routine is usually pretty uninspiring, but every once in a while something catches my eye and truly surprises me.  This is a story about a simple wheeled hand cart, and how it changed my outlook on an old-school grocery store’s seemingly unchanging corporate protocol with marketing ingenuity.

My day starts at the crack of dawn, actually well before the crack of dawn.  In the winter in Toronto, and probably many other North American cities such as Chicago and New York, it’s probably not that uncommon to wake up in darkness, go about your day, and commute home in darkness.  If you’re unlucky on any given day, you may never see the outside of your office or the light of the sun.  Plus the bitter cold is enough to keep you indoors most of the time anyways.  Yeah, winter kinda sucks.

After getting off the train in the morning, I usually opt to join the herd (almost literally) and make my way up the indoor PATH system to my office.  The corridors are lined with small franchise shops and some larger chains such as pharmacies and grocery stores that are able to afford the outrageous rent of this high-traffic area.  One such grocery store is Longo’s.  This is a widely-known brand in Southern Ontario, and their location along the dark underground corridor is pretty good.  However, when it comes to competing with smaller breakfast counters serving bagels, coffee, and sandwiches, they probably do not fare too well.  Until today.

Today I was pleasantly surprised to notice Longo’s taking the bull by the horn.  Outside their main entrance they placed a hand cart with bagels, confectioneries, and <gasp> coffee.  All of these items they already had within their grocery store but hidden amongst different aisles, making it difficult for commuters with bags to squeeze through to get their precious early morning “nom-noms”. (I always wanted to write “nom-noms” in a post)

Lo and behold, their line-up was impressive, and moving quickly.  Unlike in previous weeks where only those few commuters that could afford to wait for a checkout aisle were buying, the hand cart was doing some damage against the other franchises in the corridor.  More people than ever were now able to either shop for breakfast, lunch, and maybe even stocking their fridge at home and using the normal checkout aisle, or deciding to opt for only breakfast and get it quickly and easily.

How did this all come about?  My bet is someone at Longo’s started listening to visitors, or spotted a trend. This example is a classic case of actionable insight and execution at it’s finest.  And it didn’t take much!  Longo’s already had the baked goods, they already had the manpower, and they already had the traffic.  Now they have the cash.  How easy was that?

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