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. ", 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 15, 2005

Check outs: bad user interface?

Bob Browning, an IT industry veteran, reckons Sainsbury's self service checkouts have a bad user interface. Is he right?

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on August 15, 2005 at 11:53 AM in Retail is detail, Stories | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 13, 2005

If Unilever can get blogging, so can Sainsbury's

Remember Johnnie and I posted a lot about how Sainsbury's could / should monitor the blogosphere, particularly food blogs, and respond with email, comments and trackbacks to what is being said about the supermarket? I even drafted a comment for them, suggesting that Sainsbury's should send a crate of wine to a Nottingham diner, who couldn't find dinner party ingredients on Sainsbury's shelves.

It seems Unilever use that very strategy. When Dan Entin of 2 Percent Nation couldn't find his favourite deodorant, he blogged about it. Unilever responded... with information and a case of the missing product. Dan is now a customer for life, but, more importantly for Unilever, he is spreading the word.

I picked this up via Steve Rubel at MicroPersuasion, who retells Dan's story and cannily observes:

Unilever - a huge company with lots of to worry about - took the time to respond to Dan directly via email...

I believe we just witnessed the future of customer service. One day CRM systems will bolt in blog monitoring functionality so these posts automatically get funneled to the right place. For now, they need to be handled onesie twosie - but handled nonetheless. Kudos to Unilever.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on August 13, 2005 at 02:21 PM in Retail is detail, Stories | Permalink | Comments (2) | 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

May 08, 2005

The Feedster madness just keeps coming

I have been meaning to post this little story for a while: following on from all the Feedster fun, one of the linked bloggers immediately added 173 to his link roll (Thanks Chris), and another responded with this, which made me chuckle:

The last time I mentioned Sainsbury's (the story about the tomatoes) it was blogged in a blog about blogging about Sainsbury's. If I mention Sainsbury's enough, maybe Sainsbury's will sponsor me to write my journal. Maybe they'd pay me a full time salary to write about my shopping expeditions. Just imagine that!

And this, in BadAsstronaut’s comments, made me snort coffee out of my nose:

I was looking at glacé cherries in Waitrose last night. If I mention Waitrose enough times in your journal, will this make it into a blog about shopping in Waitrose?

To each I say: why not? When Justin King appoints the four of us to advise on Sainsbury’s blogging strategy – as he surely will any day now – we might just get in touch…

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on May 8, 2005 at 05:31 PM in People, Stories | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 04, 2005

Taking a lead from the CEO

Paul Goodison's comment about his experience with a Sainsbury's manager fuelled a conversation with my wife and sister this weekend. Between us, we have had good and bad experiences with suited managers at Sainsbury's.

My sister and I have both experienced a huddle of managers obscuring the product we want to buy, too busy talking about "important management stuff" to notice that they were in our way. My wife, on the other hand, while carrying our baby daughter in a sling, was approached by a manager to find out which aisle she was headed for next; he then ran to fetch a trolley with a child seat so he could meet her there.

What's to be learned from these contradictory experiences? Managers, whether they realise it or not, have a highly visible role and they have to exemplify the conduct they expect from the rest of the team.

The point is illustrated by this story, which my brother heard at a business conference; unfortunately, he can't say whether this is about Justin King or a previous Sainsbury's CEO. In any event, it's a good story about leading by example.

The Sainsbury's CEO employs an executive coach. The coach tells the CEO that his every move is closely watched by colleagues and that they take their lead from CEO, whether the CEO realises it or not.

To prove it, the coach proposes an experiment. He hands a copy of The Grocer to the CEO. The rules of the experiment are that the CEO is simply to keep the magazine visible whenever he is in the company of a Sainsbury's employee, but he is not to talk about it and he is to deflect questions if anyone asks him about it. 

For two weeks, the CEO carries round a copy of The Grocer magazine.

At the next meeting, the coach asks the CEO how the experiment has gone. The CEO says: No-one commented on it, no-one questioned it, no-one even appeared to notice it. They listen to what I say, but you are wrong: they don't watch my every move.

The coach then drops a bombshell: Sainsbury's employees had taken out 400 new subscriptions to the Grocer during the previous two weeks.

People do take their lead from their managers. So every time a Sainsbury's manager ignores a customer, that sends a message to other staff that the customer is not important. Conversely, every time a manager takes the time and trouble to anticipate the needs of a customer and does his or her best to help, the other staff notice and raise their game.

Anyone in a leadership position, at Sainsbury's or elsewhere, needs to be aware that their staff are watching.

Are the suits leading by example at your local Sainsbury's?

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on April 4, 2005 at 02:34 PM in Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2005

The fabulous baker boy

Home baker that I am, my only regular purchase at the Sainsbury's bakery counter is 50 grammes of fresh yeast.

There was a point when I grew very frustrated with Sainsbury's, because, even while the yeast was in stock, I couldn't buy it. The low point lasted three weeks and began with this conversation with a young lad behind the counter:

Me: Fifty grammes of fresh yeast, please.
Him: We don't sell that.
Me: Yes you do, I get it here every week. It's 16p for 50 grammes.
Him: What is it you want again? Yeas? Yeash? I don't know what that is.
Me (temporarily taken aback): Yeast, it makes bread rise... you're on the bakery counter...? Look, can you fetch one of the bakers?
Him: There are no bakers.

The following week, I meet the same truculent young fellow; this time in the company of a baker, who duly fetchs the yeast and serves me in a friendly manner. The third week, I really lose it. The young lad is flying solo again. I request the yeast and he replies, in all seriousness, We don't sell that.

We don't sell that?! Had he not figured out that I come in every week and ask for the same thing? Had he not taken the initiative and asked the baker where the yeast is kept, for when I come in next time? Had he not watched the baker sell me the yeast the previous week?

That week, I got my yeast from Tesco. Tesco don't sell yeast like Sainsbury's do, but if you ask the right baker, he will mutter I shouldn't really do this then bung you a piece of yeast the size of your head.

There is a happy ending to this story. Our young hero becomes a baker. I walk up and ask for the yeast and he goes and gets it. Just like that.

The following week, he is walking away from the counter, his shift over, when he spies me coming up the aisle. He turns on his heel and runs (runs, I tell you) back up the aisle and has the yeast waiting for me when I get there. He tells me that his shift was over, but he wasn't sure if the other staff knew how to serve me the yeast, which is why he ran back.

And remember how he didn't take the trouble to learn when he wasn't a baker? My wife went to buy yeast last week and our hero not only serves her, but as he does so, he turns to the puzzled looking Saturday girl standing next to him and says, Come and learn something: I will show you where we keep the yeast.

My point is this: somewhere along the line, that stroppy young boy became a cheery, helpful young man. He provides great service and looks out for his colleagues. And I think the key to that transformation was his becoming a baker. He will have had to learn new skills, put on a new uniform, become part of something. Of course, if you asked him he would deny it, but I think he is proud to be a baker. Now, he acts like he owns that bakery counter and he treats his customers accordingly.

You can try to teach customer service until you are blue in the face, and 9 times out of 10, it will not work. But when you give someone skills, ownership and pride in his work, then customer service flows automatically.

I am saving my links about retail employment practices for another day. For now, I think there is power in this kind of personal story, so share your best and worst Sainsbury's service experiences in the comments. Let's see if there are some common experiences which Sainsbury's could learn from.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on March 30, 2005 at 11:40 AM in People, Stories | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 05, 2005

Funny little Sainsbury's story

Just flicking through the Jan 28th Retail Week. Came across an article discussing how Sainsbury's clothing line has really taken off since they axed the Jeff Bank's range of clothes and brought in the Tu line of clothing. The change has lead to same store sales growth of 28% in clothing year on year.

However this really caught my eye and made me laugh:

Sainsbury's sensationally sacked Banks in November 2003, but continued to stock Jeff & Co until August of last year. Sainsbury's was forced to pay Banks £1m for terminating his contract, and bowed to his demand that a box of £2.99 Taste The Difference Belgian truffles be delivered to him every week.

What a great story that is! I would love to hear any similar JS stories like this from you guys. Please leave them in the comments.

Posted by Fred on February 5, 2005 at 05:13 PM in Stories | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack