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John Ryan

Have You Pivoted Lately?

Though it’s the buzzword of the year, retailers should be putting it into practice all the same.




JUST HOW FLEXIBLE are you? Pivot is a 2020 buzzword and listening to stories that use the term has been one of the hallmarks of a very tough year. Yet there is little that is, in fact, new about it. It’s just what retailers should be doing as a matter of course.

For an example of what can be done, a trip to Caudry, France, might be in order. Caudry, in case you don’t know it, is a small town in France’s far northeast, just a short distance from Belgium. Here there is a beer “cave” inside a shopping mall operated by French grocery giant E.Leclerc. The name over the door, in fact, reads “la cave á bières” (the beer warehouse, to you and me) and within there are more than 350 brews from France, Belgium, the U.S. and even Japan. This is, in fact, a beer specialist, and although the E.Leclerc hypermarket next door has a good selection of regular bottles and cans, this is stuff for the connoisseur.

The point about all of this is that it hasn’t always been this way. La cave á bières used to be around 50 percent of a large organic foods store. The organic store still exists, it’s just smaller than it was at the beginning of the year. Arguments can, of course, be had about whether beer is healthier than foods which purport to be ”organic,” but the fact of the matter is that this is a pretty good example of pivoting.

It seems unlikely, however, that COVID-19 had much to do with this decision and rather more probable that the good people of Caudry may not be quite as much in step with the Parisian metropolitan elite, about 120 miles away, as the operators of “Le marché bio” originally thought.

Pivoting is a perfectly respectable word, but it’s nothing new really.


John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.



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