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Catching a firsthand industry perspective

An in-depth field investigation brings our analyst hands-on methodology exposure and retail knowledge.

Lara Pellini worked the rounds within an English market to gain a deeper industry understanding.

Equity research analyst Lara Pellini recalls one of her first research trips and how it paid off in a huge way in terms of netting her solid industry experience. She wanted a deeper understanding of the retail food industry. Born in Florence, Italy, and based in London, Lara surprised the staff at a Cheshunt, England, retail giant by rotating through various departments — including a turn as a fishmonger.

“When I first asked if I could work there, they looked at me as if I was mad,” Lara says. She stocked shelves, checked prices, inspected with the managers and unloaded cargo. She also worked in the back office, clothing department, online division and bakery; she even went out for a stint at the petrol station and helper in the garage.

“Groceries are a high-volume business,” she says. “So it was really interesting to learn about supply chain, replenishment systems and all the sophisticated ways they get products from the warehouses to the shelves and into people’s homes.” When she took her turn helping at the cashier station, she learned the time and effort involved in keeping shelves stocked in a 60,000-square-foot store. At checkout, she was tasked with replacing damaged goods or products without a barcode. She tried sprinting to the spot in question, only to recall that, of course, running was not allowed. After an afternoon of much walking, a co-worker took pity and told Lara that she would be permitted to roller skate, rather than walk the long distances to and from the checkout station. “If only I’d known earlier!” says Pellini. Of the store skates on hand, none were her size, so she had to abandon the idea of wheels. “I left the store very tired, but I had learned a few great lessons,” she says.

At the fish counter, she ran into a stern manager. “After an hour or so, though, she began warming up to me. Customers seemed to like the new ‘Italian pescivendola’ and she gave me more creative tasks. Eventually, I understood how the operation worked and even gave out some of my dad’s Italian recipes.”

Lara followed up her experience with similar shifts at other European retailers. Each visit gave her deeper insight and steered her toward further research. Over the years, she’s learned that the best way to understand an industry or company is to look at it as closely as possible, from the inside out.

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