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May 30, 2005

Sainsbury’s – Don’t Give a Damn...

Sainsbury’s produce an own-brand Swedish Style Vegetarian Meatball of which I am particularly fond. The only branch that sells it around here is in Farnham, Surrey.

However, because of their ongoing logistical problems, they seldom have it in stock. Since the branch is about a 30-minute drive away, I thought I would phone first to ask about its availability today.

Sadly, their phone just rings and rings until BT cuts in after 10 minutes and tells me that the call has not been answered and disconnects. Fortunately, my phone is hands-free so it is quite easy for me to try again while I get on with something else.

But after four such attempts and 40 minutes of waiting, I phoned Sainsbury’s call-centre (in Scotland by the sound of it) to ask if the Farnham branch is having a communications problem. Oh no, says the helpful operator: their phones are fine, it's just that that branch seldom bothers to answer! Ah well, as long as there's a reasonable explanation...

The behaviour of the call centre operator and the Farnham branch staff is quite simply internal sabotage. Branch staff should care enough about customers to take their calls. Being busy is not an excuse - they need to manage it. And what makes it infinitely worse is that the problem is so well known that even the Scottish call-centre knows about it, and despairs.

No wonder Sainsbury is in such trouble. In my experience, staff demotivation is the most difficult business problem to fix. If your employees do not care about your customers, you can be sure your customers will not care about your business.

But the story goes from bad to worse...

So, I phone the next nearest Sainsbury’s in Camberley, Surrey to ask whether they stock the product. They at least answer their phone, but their customer services person tells me that they are not allowed to stock that product in their branch. Why I ask? Is there some fanatical Viking group in the area that might be offended by Sainsbury’s Vegetarian Swedish Style Meatballs? No, she explains, it is just that certain stores are not allowed to stock particular products. What, even if a customer requests it, I ask? Yes, she says: it’s head-office policy. Well, there you have it.

Experiences like the above make it clear why Sainsbury’s is in such trouble. No amount of re-branding, re-positioning, better quality or better pricing can redeem them. Until there is an indication that they care about their customers, I do not believe that the company can be saved. And I have seen absolutely no change in this direction over the past 12 months.

Posted by Max Blumberg on May 30, 2005 at 12:58 PM in People | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 24, 2005

Sainsbury's induction - unofficial version

One of the benefits of monitoring blogs is that you get very direct feedback on your business. Here's what A Place for the Young and Restless thinks about the induction process for new employees at Sainsbury's.

well i just fiished my last day for the induciton at sainsburys. thank fuck its over, an induction lasting 2 days? this is really bad, it didnt help that the woman taking us through the induction didnt even have a fucking clue what was going on, guess i will jus have to 2nd guess everything when i actually start friday night. the only good thing about the induction was the fact i got paid, but to be honest that was the least they could fucking do. 2 days of them telling you how to lift boxes properly!!!! this is genral health and saftey shit, if you dont know this you shouldnt be in a job!! the only reason i went for this job is because the money is really good. means i wont be able to go out weekends for a pint with mates, but i can always go out during the week as i will have nothing to do from monday to friday evening! sweet.

Posted by Johnnie Moore on May 24, 2005 at 09:08 PM in People | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 22, 2005

A small amusement...

Thank you to Robert Scoble for highlightling this…

Store Wars

Posted by Fred on May 22, 2005 at 11:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 18, 2005

Because you care

Sainsbury’s today reported their Prelims for Year Ended 26 March 2005. I’ll post more about these numbers later.

What I did just want to comment on was the interest that people seem to have in Sainsbury’s.

Over at eCademy, the question is ‘whether it is the management or the products that suck’ at Sainsbury’s.

Over at the BBC, the question is asked whether existing customers feel that things are turning round

These posts seem to show 2 themes:

  1. That whilst there is progress, more needs to be done.
  2. As much as anyone alludes to the overall positioning of Sainsbury’s, they don’t want the business to become just another Tesco’s or Asda. They want the company to be distinctive. Indeed, some talked about similar ideas to those talked about here surface – local produce, organic etc.

Let us know in the comments what interesting disccussions you have seen today about  Sainsbury’s numbers and future…

Posted by Fred on May 18, 2005 at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 17, 2005

Justin King speaking at the London Business Forum

For the past days, my fellow authors have been emailing round and invite to hear Justin King, CEO of Sainsbury’s, speak on 9th June with the London Business Forum. Figured that someone had better post it here…

Join us to see Justin King, Chief Executive of Sainsbury's and Tim Waterstone, Founder of Waterstone's & Chelsea Stores in conversation with author of Trolley Wars, Judi Bevan.


Thursday 9 June 2005, 6:00 - 9:00 pm, Portman Square, London W1

Join us in the heart of London's shopping district as we explore the story of a ferocious battle for supremacy amongst the four main supermarket chains in Britain.

We'll look at how Tesco has risen to number 1 position and has become the first UK retailer to unveil annual profits of more than £2bn.

Justin King will outline Sainsbury's strategy for reclaiming the top crown and Tim Waterstone will discuss how small retailers can compete with the giant supermarkets.

This event delves into the ruthless world behind the checkout till; the truth behind supermarkets' relationships with their suppliers and customers and into the boardroom to discover the true story and reveal what will happen next.

The Ivy will be our caterers for the evening supplying exotic cocktails and serving fish and chips!

All guests will receive a complimentary copy of Trolley Wars by Judi Bevan, published by Profile Books (RRP £17.99). This is an event you do not want to miss.

Trolley Wars

As is stands Max and I will definitely be going along. If any other Sainsbury’s fashionistas fancy meeting at the event or having a drink after let us know!

Posted by Fred on May 17, 2005 at 09:57 AM in Stories | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 16, 2005

A Wal-Mart story from Rosa Say

Business coach, Rosa Say, has a really interesting story about shopping in Wal-Mart. The gist of it is that supermarket retail can be a pretty grim work environment sometimes:

"Sam [the shop assistant] could not have been older than 19 or 20, and I hated the thought that this was his introduction to the wonderful adult world of work.

All the missing elements are so obvious I know I don’t have to list them here for you. Yet managers in countless workplaces will continue to put employees in situations similar to Sam’s."

Commenters have touched on this before at 173 and I think now would be a good time to remind you of Rosa's brilliantly simple management technique: The Daily 5 Minutes.

Is Sainsbury's better or worse than Asda/Wal-Mart or Tesco in this regard? And what other simple interventions - in addition to D5M - could turn working at Sainsbury's from a grind into a great experience?

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on May 16, 2005 at 02:36 PM in Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sainsbury's rich heritage

David Middleburgh talks us on a virtual walking tour of Leytonstone, his childhood home, passing a former Sainsbury's site:

Walked up Church Lane past the former location of one of Sainsbury's opened around 1900. (I remember going in there when I was about 4? when they had shop assistants in aprons behind marbled counters and they sold unpacked butter (patted to order) and you could choose your own eggs individually).

I wonder if there is a Sainsbury's can promote such a rich heritage, without cheapening it?

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on May 16, 2005 at 01:53 PM in Heritage | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 14, 2005

Price always comes third or fourth

As Sainsbury's contemplates its slogan change to put an emphasis back on cost cutting, it's refreshing (no pun intended) to read these comments made at the fruit and veg industry's Re:fresh conference:

Mark Newton, md of Florette UK, said: “There’s been a lot of talk from the trade about listening to what consumers want. What they don’t want is produce that’s been value engineered to within an inch of its life.

“Price always comes third or fourth on the list. People talk about freshness and taste. We’re in danger of forgetting that our product is food, and food should taste fantastic.”

Elaine Alexander, chief executive of South African Table Grape Industry, said: “As prices go down, the product becomes more and more devalued in the eyes of consumers.

“We have to use all our resources to try and turn this around. We demean our consumers by only believing they are interested in price.”

John smith of Greyfriars was also on the panel and noted the imbalance between the retailers who are looking at a 22% return and the growers who are struggling to keep up with the retailers' demands. Freshinfo really is a very good read.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on May 14, 2005 at 01:21 PM in Logistics, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sainsbury's discards its quality heritage at its peril

The Evening Standard had some interesting quotes on the Sainsbury's slogan change (emphasis mine):

Richard Hyman, chairman of retail consultancy Verdict, said: "Brands are like living organisms and Sainsbury's must be very sensitive to what they do. They must not just try to be Tesco - because Tesco is already doing that rather well."

Paul Smiddy, retail analyst at brokers Robert Baird, said: "They discard their quality heritage at their peril. The fact is, if they want to turn the business around they have got to win on food. Non-food is just the icing on the cake."

Well said, gents.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on May 14, 2005 at 12:55 PM in Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Making life taste better cheaper

Following on from Max's observations on Sainsbury's changing their slogan, The Independent has interesting coverage of Sainsbury's slogan history:

Industry observers have heaped ridicule on Sainsbury's for abandoning the slogan that served it so well during its glory years of the Eighties: "Good Food Costs Less".

Sainsbury's declined to comment yesterday about whether it planned to revive its old slogan. A spokeswoman did concede, however, that the company wanted the new motto to "reflect great quality food at fair prices" - or in other words, good food costs less.

The main problem is the confusion here between cost and class. Yes, "Making life taste better" is too close to "Fancy lifestyle for a better class of person than you," but the real problem is in the market's deep seated perception of the store. It doesn't matter what tweaking Sainsbury's does with its slogan, it will still be perceived as a middle class supermarket by Tesco shoppers. The Guardian did a great article on this a while back - I'm rich and I'm living well. Shopping here is part of that. Do you think a new slogan will change Stef's opinion of Sainsbury's?

At the other end of the scale, there is the very real danger that adopting a "Cheap food for chavs" slogan may well drive away the middle class shoppers on whom Sainsbury's depends - to Waitrose or organic box schemes and to farmers' markets.

It's good that Sainsbury's has spotted the problem and is working on it, but the long term solution has to be to sidestep the class issue and sell good food, to people who want it, regardless of their perceived standing in society.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on May 14, 2005 at 12:43 PM in Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack