February 09, 2006

Silence in the lane...

Well it's been over three months since the last post here, and I was chatting to some of my fellow authors about it.

Two of us (including me) realised that one reason we've not had much to say is that we've not actually been inside a Sainsbury's lately. In my case, without making any kind of big decision, I've just started doing most of my food shopping at M&S. Rightly or wrongly, I've come to the conclusion that their stuff is fresher and more appealing. I'm not completely convinced by all their healthy eating promotions... but I am tempted by it.

My personal whims are certainly not something any retailer needs to worry about... I wonder if I'm part of a trend or not.

Anyway, this is a small gesture to see if we can revive the postings on this blog.

And if any of our readers is interested in joining the writing team here, please drop me an email (johnnie [at] johnniemoore [dot] com).

Posted by Johnnie Moore on February 9, 2006 at 09:59 AM in About this site | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

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

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 11, 2005

Drinking the Stormhoek at 173 Drury Lane

I haven't written anything on 173 Drury Lane for a couple of months. Ultimately, I think it was dying a slow death. The founders and I exchanged a few emails, but the fire had gone out. I asked friend and commenterJames Governor should we bother. His response was emphatic:

You should bother – it was just getting interesting. But you need to ensure it starts to exert pressure on Sainsbury’s which may mean a bit of trad PR.

It would be absurd to stop now. Look – blogging has gone mainstream in the US (Boeing and GM, to name two, with businessweek blog jumping in) – and you think this won't happen in the UK or something? Now is the time to position, not give up.

As he so often is, James is right. And if we need proof, we need not look far beyond the blogs of Steve Rubel, Neville Hobson and Hugh Macleod:

Steve Rubel says everyone is a marketer now.
50 million Americans visited blogs in Q1 2005. New Communications has a whole slew of stats about growth in blog publishing and consumption.

Where the US goes, the UK usually follows. Sainsbury's needs to know that. If we get our act in gear, 173 Drury Lane can have influence. Influence, by the way is another of Steve Rubel's hot issues: Don't measure blog readership, measure influence. Steve is not just talking citizen journalism either. He is talking about citizen marketing too.

Neville Hobson, quoting the FT, says Smart companies stimulate disruptive thinking.

Clark Gilbert, a professor at Harvard Business School, suggests the best innovations result from thinking about external forces:

"Intrapreneurial" ventures should be "opportunity-based rather than resource-based", he says, explaining that most large organisations try unsuccessfully to develop new ideas from their existing resources and competencies, rather than look outside for ideas. "The problem in so many existing markets is that product lines have already overshot what most consumers can absorb," he adds.

Can blogging be one of the external forces which encourages Sainsbury's to develop new ideas, beyond their existing resources and competencies? Hugh Macleod thinks so: he sent me a bottle of Stormhoek, because he sees Wine Blogging as Marketing Disruption.

There is no point saying "blogging can change the world" while the world says "what the f*** is blogging?" James is right. Not only do we need to start posting again, and encouraging comments and new authors, we probably need traditional PR too. And while we are at it, we need to go and buy Stormhoek and tell Sainsbury's I am buying this, not because of some mixed message Jamie Oliver TV spot, but because Hugh Macleod told me to.

When he co-founded 173 Drury Lane, Max Blumberg wrote:

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:

  • Can a blog like this one really influence the path of a company like Sainsbury's and be of benefit to it?
  • What is our role as bloggers in this process?

I have decided to start posting again because like Max, like James, like Hugh and Steve and Neville, I want to know the answers to those questions, too.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on August 11, 2005 at 02:04 PM in About this site, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 20, 2005

Reintroducing Adrian Trenholm and a bit more on "why 173?"

So, I am no longer a guest author at 173 Drury Lane - Johnnie asked me recently to join him, Freddie and Max as a regular author and I was pleased to accept.

To reiterate my core message on this blog: The idea that we have no real food culture in this country - as opposed to say France or Italy - is outdated. There are big rewards for the supermarket which wakes up and takes a lead role in UK food culture. Unlike Tesco and Asda, Sainsbury's has the heritage, and possibly even the management will, to be a great food store. My posts here are aimed at exploring the nuts and bolts of "food focus," in particular:

  • Product range and quality - less junk and more healthy food, available consistently
  • Well managed, food-educated staff - real passion returned to buying and selling food
  • Leadership in food culture - dialogue with customers, and responsible leadership on health, supply chain and environment
  • Design and branding - to make food-focus successful in the mass, not just the niche, marketplace

I am grateful for all the comments and links to 173 Drury Lane so far and I am keen to continue what we have started. Johnnie emailed me recently:

It would be cool if [173] became the host for lively conversations with real [Sainsbury's] customers…

I like what James Cherkoff wrote recently about Open Source Marketing and I think this is very relevant to 173 Drury Lane:

There can be few marketeers who would admit to not being interested in their customers’ views and the issues that shape their marketplace. However, many do not appreciate the extent to which the new digital environment and distributed communications infrastructure has changed the rules of engagement.

So I ask you, if you haven't already, to comment here often, to link to us and to write about Sainsbury's on your blog, if you have one. Let's create a conversation that Sainsbury's can't ignore...

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on April 20, 2005 at 10:26 AM in About this site, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2005

About Adrian Trenholm

My name is Adrian Trenholm and I will be  a guest author at 173drurylane.com for the next month. I am a freelance web developer and consultant, although, right now, I spend most of my time looking after Hannah, my 21 month old daughter. Find out what I am up to at my blog.

As this is my first foray into blogging, I asked Johnnie Moore for some guidance. He said, be positive and ask questions; don't purport to know all the answers.

In that spirit, I would like to use the blog as a space to test the theory that the UK is not all chav culture, turkey twizzlers and brown sauce; that, despite media hype and commercial pressures, there is a discerning, happy, healthy food culture in this country; and that Sainsbury's might do well by playing a lead role in that culture, instead of diluting its messsage to appeal to the twizzler guzzlers. 

Of course, I might be living in a land of make believe, so I invite you to set me straight by commenting frequently.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on March 23, 2005 at 12:34 AM in About this site | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 05, 2005

About Freddie Daniells

Hi - welcome to 173. I am Freddie Daniells. And I am the last of the terrible threesome to get properly signed up here.

My day job is running cogentum. We help large companies save time and money by making the marketing department and brand easier to run.

I have a broad and varied background which includes many years working for a variety of investment banks. I plan to bring all these experiences to bear in talking about JS here. To read about me and my thoughts come to my personal site.

This site will, we hope, become THE place to focus on and debate the business, marketing and financial issues that Sainsbury's face.

We would like to invite contributions from all parties who can bring value to the discussion - analysts, brand specialists, former employees, existing employees, competitors, retail consultants and anyone else with a strong view. If you would like to either guest or become a more permanent part of the debate, then please get in touch. This can attributed or can be anonymous.

For me this is an exciting experiment. I know of no other site so focused on the business issues surrounding a single company. It will be a lot of fun to see where you can help us take it.

However, this site is a conversation. Nothing more, nothing less. It is certainly no panacea. There are inevitably many company specific variables that we can never know. So whilst our opinions may be argued forcefully, we accept their limitations.

Why Sainsbury's?

Like Johnny I was brought up to view Sainsbury's as a quality retailer that stood somewhat above the fray in the supermarket industry. Yet somehow the company feels frail in this market. We have all read about the poor financial performance. But the problems are not financial in nature - Sainsbury's has lost its way.

I also love food, and can be happily seen wandering the aisles on a Saturday morning round my local supermarkets in North London. Sainsbury's reputation as a seller of quality food is important to me.

I look forward to hearing from you, the readers and potential contributors. I look forward to a great conversation.

Posted by Fred on February 5, 2005 at 02:56 PM in About this site | Permalink | Comments (0) | 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 http://www.maxblumberg.com/

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 173drurylane.com.  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