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EDITORIAL Lessons for Sainsbury’s from The Works, Decathlon UK and Bang & Olufsen

Sainsbury's: locking prices and cutting waste

Sainsbury’s has logged another disappointing quarter– the third in a row – and its plan to ‘evolve’ slowly to meet changing customer demands is starting to look like the wrong plan.

While trading conditions are extremely tough– and set to get tougher the longer the Brexit debacle rolls on unresolved – some retailers are starting to see some growth in UK retail. The Works, French sportswear giant Decathlon UK and high-end audio brands Bang & Olufsen are all seeing improvements in their online and in-store sales. What are they doing right that Sainsbury’s isn’t?

For starters, they are smaller and more agile. Sainsbury’s is an oil tanker, slow to turn and so progress in adapting to what its customers wants is going to be hard. However, Sainsbury’s has deep pockets and really should be leading the turnaround in retail craft, not watching over its shoulder as nimble, smaller retailers adapt and start to thrive.

The Works and Decathlon UK are working hard to get their proposition right across both online and in-store and are working on how the two interoperate. Bang & Olufsen, too, has invested heavily in re-platforming to create not only a state-of-the-art website and mobile proposition, but also a set up that will help to bring ecommerce and in-store retail together.

While B&O have produced a leading technology solution to the problem, it doesn’t have to cost the Earth. The Works has, for example, focussed on making its stores deliver what people want, made its online offering tie in with that and has built on its customers’ desire for click and collect to create a service that is bring in the cash.

Decathlon, too, is looking at stores. It, like The Works, is planning new stores in the UK as what it sells is something people go to shops for. They research online, then they shop in-store. The same goes for the Works and for B&O.

And it is here that Sainsbury’s needs to take note. Its customer too are attracted to stores. While online grocery shopping is growing, many shoppers still want to visit the store. They also want click and collect. Making these work in the ways shoppers want – and with the right prices and offering the right goods – is key to today’s omni-channel retail.

Sainsbury’s, of course, knows this. What seems to be less easy to fathom is why it isn’t rushing to deliver the offerings consumers want, rather it wants to evolve its way there.

Now, this could be that it really does want to see where customers are going and what they want and then, bam, hit us with some sort ‘store of the future’ ideal that will change everything. However, it seems that Mike Coupe has lost momentum.

Much of Sainsbury’s efforts have been focussed on the now defunct Asda deal. With that dead, it seems that the company is now a bit adrift – not only a slow-to-turn oil tanker, but one that has lost its map and possibly its rudder.

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