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August 31, 2005

A new addition to the team

I am very pleased to be the latest addition to the 173 Drury Lane writing team - my background is wine (a member of the Circle of Wine Writers and an Associate of the Institute of Wine and Spirits) and to say I am totally immersed in the wine and food sub-sphere of blogging and the trade int he UK as a whole would be about right! While I concentrate on the vibrant independent sector with particular emphasis on web-based merchants the supermarkets, who dominate the wine buying sector in the UK, cannot be ignored. I maintain several websites including Spittoon.biz and Andy's Scribblings, the latter being a long running email newsletter with a world-wide readership. I am also a contributor to slashfood.com and jzepp.

Posted by wine_scribbler on August 31, 2005 at 05:25 PM in About this site | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Going local

David Weinberger comments on the final failure of Denver airport's centralised baggage handling system and makes a general point about the benefits of less centralised approaches. This reminded me of Sainsbury's own problems with an overengineered distribution system that had to be abandoned in favour of something involving more human beings.

But I think Weinberger's point goes way beyond logistics. Big companies used to have an advantage in a world where bandwidth of all kinds was at a premium. Their advantage was that they could be quicker and more efficient at co-ordinating both things and ideas. Not any more. These days, individual citizens have easy access to tons of information and they are getting better and better at spreading it, outside the conventional company systems. Blogging is just one manifestation of this.

I'm wondering if Tesco has ridden the wave in terms of big, and brilliantly systematised, business operations.. and whether Sainsbury's needs to cut its local stores a lot more slack to engage with local people. I wonder if we're now past the peak of people being loyal to megabrands, and are starting to look for something a bit more human. None of the many big name food stores where I live conveys to me any real sense of connection to Islington, beyond the odd charity collection tin.

Adrian wrote here on Sainsbury's localising its potatoes. But maybe they need to go way beyond this...

Posted by Johnnie Moore on August 31, 2005 at 04:30 PM in Logistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 28, 2005

Sainsbury's Wine Suggestions

Sainsburysss A guy named Paul just emailed me. Needs help with a dinner and the wines to serve with each course with the only stipulation is that they must come from Sainsbury's. Glad to help.

The menu -

  • Avocado pear with prawns
  • Chicken breast with whisky sauce
  • Dark chocolate ballerina cup with lemon moose and summer fruits
  • Cheese board
  • Coffee & Mints

I loaded up the Sainsbury's wine site and had a browse through the listings. The first dish is just heavenly with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. This is a style of wine that the Kiwi's have made internationally famous. Sainsbury's doesn't have any listed. Unbelievable. I suggested a South African Sauvignon as an alternative from the list of just six Sauvignons on the website. Almost as unbelievable is the lack of a Sancerre! A basic, classic well known 'name' and region that should form the basis of any wine listing. They don't have one.

The Chicken breast with a strong flavoured sauce needs a weighty wine; a Chardonnay would be ideal. I selected one from Australia thinking the full fruit based flavours would find favour with a range of drinkers. The Stella Bella Chardonnay from Margaret River is very good with the Rosemount Orange Vineyard Chardonnay as an alternative. Not a huge listing here either with just six Chardonnays listed. Nothing from Burgundy... odd. The starter and the main course could be served with just one wine - the Skuttlebutt Sauvignon Semillon Chardonnay would be my choice.

The Dessert would be great with a frothy, sweetish Asti. Sainsbury's do not list one or anything else suitable.

The vague 'cheese course' is impossible to match. I have a list of suggestions over on Spittoon and mention this to Paul with a direct link. It was then another thing struck me about the Sainsbury's website - you cannot link direct to a specific wine. This would that have aided me in directing Paul to the correct wines by supplying a direct link.

So sadly not only is the wine range available from Sainsbury's Wines very poor the site is basic and unhelpful. I wonder who uses it?

Posted by wine_scribbler on August 28, 2005 at 08:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 22, 2005

Sainsbury's... because it's orange

Imperial Moth thinks that he failed in his interview for Sainsbury's. But to my mind, it's Sainsbury's which has failed to distinguish itself from other supermarkets:

In answering the question "Why do you think that people choose to shop at Sainsbury's?", my brain panicked after failing to find an intelligent and sensible response. So I looked around for inspiration and saw this ginormous Sainsbury's logo above the store entrance, illuminated in bright orange. And almost without thinking, I blurted out my answer..."Because it's orange."

Shit! What a crap thing to say, it needed to be covered up cleverly. What I said next did not achieve this. "...er, and people like orange?! Also the food is of a high quality and priced sensibly, like it says in the slogan 'good food, honestly priced'. Hold on, that's Waitrose. Oops, sorry..."

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on August 22, 2005 at 01:45 PM in Stories | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 21, 2005

Sainsbury's news roundup

Sainsbury's has just bought 9 Morrisons stores, 8 in the south of England, and one in Scotland:

Sainsbury (SBRY.L: Quote, Profile, Research) said the stores, part of the old Safeway chain that Morrison (MRW.L: Quote, Profile, Research) bought in 2004, would boost earnings in the first full year of operation.

More on this story at Just-Food.com.

But as new stores are acquired, another is threatend with closure, according to the Wanstead and Woodford Guardian:

SAINSBURY's Waltham Point distribution depot and Loughton Old Station Road supermarket could face possible closure if the company's lorries continue to flout route restrictions through the district.

Epping Forest Council has written to the company threatening enforcement action against the depot and supermarket, unless Sainsbury does more to stop its delivery lorries using routes prohibited under the orders agreed when the two premises were built.

The council itself is facing legal proceedings if it fails to address the issue, following legal correspondence from a Loughton resident who has recorded several breaches near his more than 800-year-old Church Hill home.

[The resident's] Solicitor Michael Legister, of Huggins & Lewis Foskett, said his client, wished to remain anonymous for fear of possible retalliation by angry drivers...

A Sainsbury spokesman said: "... we have robust processes in place to ensure our drivers and our suppliers only use the agreed route."

Meanwhile, Sainsburys rolls out Northgate HR payroll solution across 727 stores.

Keith Simson, Head of Payroll Services, Sainsbury's, said, "Outsourcing the payroll function to Northgate HR allows us to concentrate our efforts on strategic HR tasks.

Perhaps these strategic HR tasks will include disciplining the wayward delivery drivers at the Waltham Point depot?

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on August 21, 2005 at 07:41 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

It's not what you know...

This is such an interesting comment from Hugh Macleod (on James Governor's Sainsbury's needs a blogging strategy), I feel it deserves a post all of its own:

Interesting... Justin King used to be the head of beers, wines, & spirits at ASDA. Under him, the head of wines was this guy called Nick. Directly under Nick was this guy called Alistaire.

Nick and Alistair are now over at Orbital Wines, who do.... Stormhoek.

Nick is the head of the company, Alistair is the head of sales.

And Sainsbury's just ordered some Stormhoek.

Small world.

Now if blogging works for Stormhoek, do you think the message might filter back to Mr King?

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on August 21, 2005 at 05:16 PM in People | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 20, 2005

The dormant demand for jam sugar... and leadership

Pei has just made a batch of homemade jam - giving the surplus away to friends. Damn civilised, don't you think? Justin King says Sainsbury's is focusing on food, but it was discounter Asda that stocked the vital ingredient. Sainsbury's came up short.

The wider question goes to the slow death of traditional cooking skills - like making one's own jam. Is this what we want? I don't always make everything from scratch, but I like to, as does everyone I know. We wish to do more cooking than we do. We feel a pull towards the slow food way of doing things, but the lure of convenience is always there. Perhaps by appealing to our better selves - you want to cook; here, let us show you how - Sainsbury's could really awaken this dormant demand. When I say Sainsbury's could take a lead in UK food culture, this is what I mean.

For example, why not host cookery classes in its stores? Of course, the store offers recipe cards, but they are dumped on a rack at the end of the aisle in a "take it or leave it" fashion. Is that food-focus? A real live person doing small lessons throughout the day on something seasonal - like making jam - would be much more of an attention grabber, and much more likely to rouse the dormant cook in all of us.

No, making jam is not as convenient or as cheap as buying a jar, but here's the thing: Tesco and Asda pretty much own convenient and cheap, so why don't Sainsbury's work on building a whole new market?

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on August 20, 2005 at 11:34 AM in Food | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Overheard in Sainsbury's

Will all staff members involved in this morning's huddle, please go to the warehouse area. All members for the huddle to warehouse area.

Do any staff members want to share what happens in a huddle? Genuine innovation? Or just a meeting with a shiny new name?

By the way, I was not the only customer to laugh out loud and shake my head when the announcement came over the tannoy.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on August 20, 2005 at 10:51 AM in People | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 18, 2005

Welcome James

I just wanted to say welcome to our new blogger, James Governor, who's already introduced himself and contributed here. When we started this blog, we thought of it as experiment, with only a simple sense of direction and a willingness to try stuff and see what happens.

One of the best things here has been the quality of some of the comments. It was Adrian Trenholm's comments that prompted me to ask him to join us an author. And now Adrian in turn has invited James. I'm looking forward to more of his ideas and insights here.

This choice also suggests that the "foodie" strategy is starting to emerge as a strong theme for what we're writing. We didn't set out with that in mind, and it's very interesting to see how it has emerged over several months of conversations.

There's also a spirit here of writing when we're moved to, not when we feel we ought. So for much of the summer, without any particular decision, we took a break for several weeks. Now the blog has woken up again and I for one am eager to see how it evolves. And whether Sainsbury's themselves take note..

Posted by Johnnie Moore on August 18, 2005 at 01:57 PM in About this site | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 17, 2005

Sainbury needs a blogging strategy

It seems I blog on retail more than I realised. Old goldfish brain just remembered yesterday's pointer to Tesco, which is now using RSS to deliver daily special offers directly into your  "blog aggregator", or as we like to call them blog alligators... (that is, a simple piece of software that goes out onto the web and brings back any new thoughts or ideas from people whose opinions you subscribe to... a good example is bloglines).

Why should Sainbury get on with it? For one thing, because I nearly made my first ever ecommerce wine purchase,  from Tesco, just because of this silly widget. There are other geeks out there that might do the same thing.

But the Tesco gubbins is fairly poorly done. Sainbury could BLOW TESCO AWAY if it wanted to.

Here is a 3 point action plan, gleaned from some comments by Adrian on a recent 173 post.  Take the advice and Sainbury could begin leading the way, leading a national dialogue about food and retail, and respond better to customer needs and wants. Even Anticipate PR problems before they blow up.

Here is how:

1. Set up blogging accounts for any customer who wants to write about food OR set up a single blog to which food writers (maybe famous) can contribute.

2. Have an open discussion including Sainsbury's purchasing department, through a blog about food miles (why supermarkets fly stuff long distances, the constraints purchasers work under, the great local produce they discover and buy etc).

3. Get Justin King CEO blogging (if its good enough for General Motors CEO...)

There are lots of possibilities and all that is really required is corporate will and some dedicated individuals.

The best thing about blog networking is its cheap and easy to set up. No expensive consulting fees. The software can be free. But its not about technology so much as community.

Posted by James Governor on August 17, 2005 at 03:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack