Main | February 2005 »

January 27, 2005

Details, details

Being a bit geeky, I've set up a seach in Feedster on Sainsbury's.  This basically keeps watch on the internet and picks up new entries anywhere that mention the name Sainsbury's. 

It throws up all sorts of stuff. Some of it is from mainstream media, talking about top management and high finance.  What really strikes me at the moment are the casual entries from people who mention Sainsbury's in passing, while talking about their daily lives.  Take this for instance, from a blogger called The Cornish Rambler.

Just realised that today is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. And the checkout lady in Sainsburys that served me earlier might well be forgiven for thinking that it was certainly mine, having rung through two bottles of wine, two Cadbury's Creme Eggs, a tin of biscuits and a monster* sized bar of chocolate. This was, however, just an eminently sensible reaction to having missed a bus by a minute, leading to missing my train by three minutes, and facing a possible further hour and a half before getting home. The day itself was rather sunny and fine, and if this was the worst then the rest proves to be rather jolly.

*Monster sized is bigger than "jumbo sized" but smaller than "hoofing-great", for those of an enquiring mind.

You might wonder why I bring this up, but it reminds us that we're talking about something that is bound up, albeit in little ways, with the daily lives of millions of people.  Lord (Alan) Sainsbury, who pioneered supermarkets, kept telling me "retail is detail".  Part of the spirit of this blog is to avoid simplistic solutions, be willing to look at details, and remember we're talking about people's lives here.

Posted by Johnnie Moore on January 27, 2005 at 01:19 PM in People | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sainsbury's Annual Report

I think that a company's annual report is one good place to start discussing it. The report supposedly includes the aspirations of the Chairman and CEO as well as "regulated" financials for the past year.

Sainsbury's annual report can be found here (opens a pdf file in a new window).

I'll go through it over the coming weeks:

1. It says they are a leading food retailer with interests in financial services (Sainsbury's Bank). Immediately my gut instinct for a business in trouble is that it should cast off distractions and move back to the core business while it re-groups.

The idea of supermarkets selling financial products arose when it was thought that these might become commodities (mortgages, loans, insurance etc.). Have they? Most people still associate Sainsbury with food (and "expensive" and "not doing very well". Therefore, I suspect we may be looking at their justification for retaining the financial business.

Of course I am dead in favour of diversification - that is, businesses meeting a broad range of related needs for their customers. Although financial services can be viewed as meeting needs in a similar category to groceries (in that they are supposed to commodity staples), I am sure there are needs closer to the core grocery business which Sainsbury's should be addressing first e.g. decent non-food ranges, customer service, better shelf-sticking etc.

2. The company is operating on a 4% net margin (pre-tax). I actually wanted the company's gross margin to see how it is doing with its competitors because I suspect that Sainsbury carries a higher cost base than necessary. Anyone know where we can find industry comparisons?

Posted by Max Blumberg on January 27, 2005 at 10:31 AM in Marketing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 26, 2005

About Johnnie Moore

I’m a marketing consultant/facilitator based in London. I’ve got my own weblog here where you can find out more about me. I'll just use this post to talk about my history with Sainsbury's.

My sentimental attachment to Sainsbury’s goes back to childhood, when I accompanied mum to the old-style store on South Street, Bishop’s Stortford. A store with staff behind counters, but not a supermarket. I recall that it had become a supermarket by 1969, when we were given a slice of fruit cake to celebrate the firm’s centenary. (Over those childhood years, I was well-indoctrinated that Tesco’s was a very low class establishment by comparison.) I shopped at "JS" with mum well into my teens, through several reincarnations of Sainsbury’s Bishop’s Stortford.

After growing up and getting a degree, I was appointed, somewhat to my surprise, by Sainsbury’s to work as research assistant to Lord (Alan) Sainsbury – by then the octogenarian President of the company. I sat on the top floor of Stamford House, somewhat of an innocent graduate trying to write speeches for him about the Green Pound.

I only stayed a little more than a year, but in that time I did the rounds including two weeks working at Sainsbury’s Walthamstow, turning my hand to everything from counting the cash to gutting the fish. While I worked there, they opened a store in Islington. Which is, oddly enough, where I now live and often do my weekly shop.

So I have a long, and often fond attachment to Sainsbury’s. I don’t really believe in getting loyal to brands, it makes more sense to be loyal to people. But there it is, the world is not that logical is it?

And it would be nice to see Sainsbury’s do well again. Perhaps in a very different way from the past.

Posted by Johnnie Moore on January 26, 2005 at 07:43 PM in About this site | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

About Max Blumberg

I'm Max Blumberg, a UK-based business strategist with a special interest in marketing. My weblog can be found at

I am interested to learn the extent to which weblogs can be used to create thought-leadership and influence business behaviour.

I am interested in questions like:

o Can a blog like this one really influence the path of a company like Sainsbury's and be of benefit to it?

o What is our role as bloggers in this process?

o How can we open this blog up so that others with an interest in Sainsbury's can also comment? For example, we would like to hear from employees although I suspect this will need to be anonymous.

I look forward to working with you all.

Posted by Max Blumberg on January 26, 2005 at 07:41 PM in About this site | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Why we've created this site

Hello, we are Max Blumberg, Freddie Daniells and Johnnie Moore and we are the hosts of  173 Drury Lane is the place where the very first Sainsbury's opened, way back in 1869.

We created this website because we wanted to generate an online discussion about the future of Sainsbury’s.  To be very clear, this site is NOT authorised or written by J.Sainsbury plc.

Most people know that Sainsbury’s has been in the headlines lately, and often for the wrong reasons.  We think it’s a shame that the company is having a tough time; that’s not good for anyone who works there, shops there or invests in Sainsbury’s.

So we thought: what could we do about it?

Although we are all marketing consultants, we wanted to avoid the usual mistake of smugly coming up with miracle solutions for problems.  And the last thing Sainsbury’s needs right now is another bunch of experts complacently telling them what to do.

Instead, we thought it would be more fun, and more productive, to host a discussion – between ourselves, and with anyone else – about how Sainsbury’s could do better.

What we’re aiming for here is constructive debate. We welcome heartfelt criticism as well as praise, with the intention of pointing to some more positive futures for Sainsbury’s.

So, whatever your relationship to Sainsbury’s – shopper, investor, employee, director, shareholder or competitor – you’re invited to join the discussion.

And we’ll see where we end up!

Posted by Johnnie Moore on January 26, 2005 at 07:02 PM in About this site | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack