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Sainsbury's store tour: the latest developments that are set to differentiate the retailer

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InternetRetailing visited Sainsbury’s Redhill store to discover the latest developments the supermarket is working on to stand out from the competition.

Redhill is one of Sainsbury’s oldest stores dating back to 1899. Over the past three years, it has been extended and refurbished and now seeks to remind its customers of an American-sized superstore. Of its mammoth 61,677 sq ft of the sales floor, 42,000 sq ft is dedicated to the food section, offering not only a wide range of product assortment, pizzeria, and a new sushi bar but also Argos mini-store to the 61,000 shoppers who live within 10 minutes drive.

But the innovations aren’t just in food: the brick-and-mortar store showcases many other new concepts – one of the handiest is a two-floor car park, boosting the store’s parking by additional 550 spaces.

Introducing visitors to the supermarket, Mike Coupe, group chief executive of Sainsbury’s said: "A lot of talk in our business was about the acquisition of Argos, what we’re doing with clothing and general merchandise and how we’re bringing that digital real-estate, but we mustn’t forget what drives our customer traffic is our food business, as we serve 27 million customers a week within the supermarket convenience business. "

He added: "We are also opening our 200th store, which is well ahead of schedule and we’ll deliver 250th one in the year ahead, as part of the programme we originally set up for our business."

Differentiating food proposition

Sainsbury’s has been making steady steps towards its transformation of becoming a distinctive retailer, implementing ’food democratisation’ by offering cheap grocery offers instead of multi-buy options, demonstrating fairer staffing contact rules and planning to put an end to the orthodox checkout process.

This ’democratic’ differentiation concept, as seen in Redhill brick-and-mortar store, has put an end to the multi-buy options after the supermarket’s research revealed that costumers only want one or two items out of three.

In fact, the British supermarket was the first to discontinue bulk-buy deals and instead sell individual items at a lower price in its endeavour to allow the supermarket’s clientele to choose an item they truly need instead of being tricked into buying a multi-buy option.

The retailer believes that the old meal deal offers are out-of-step with today’s shoppers, whose main priorities are cutting back on unhealthy snacks like confectionaries, crisps, and other processed add-ons.

Sainsbury’s website also features less promotional clutter and a vast array of goods at a lower price, offering clarity of choice, affordable options and simpler website experience for its customers.



Revolutionalising the role of staff members

Sainsbury’s decision to operate its physical stores at a lower cost, while at the same time providing a better level of customer service, has the retailer to utilise its workforce more efficiently to drive a further transformation. As shoppers increasingly conduct their purchases online, they expect even better service in brick-and-mortar stores. The first part of the transformation will reduce the numbers of senior management roles in the stores and instead appoint a group of managers that will be in charge of counters, cafes, clothing and other critical sections in the store.

The second significant change is around the wages. Sainsbury’s plans to invest £100 million in moving employees to £9.20 per hour regardless of whether they work on different shifts or sections in a store. The move, which represents a 30% increase over four years, will be reviewed again in 18 month period.

Simon Roberts, retail and operations manager Sainsbury’s said:"We think this is very important because it demonstrates fairness we lead, we want to create fair contract rules, as now we have our workforce at different pay rate according to whether they work on different shifts or sections in a store. By summer, we’ll have appointed a new, a smaller leadership team for everyone. Resetting the store management allows us to do a better job for our customers."

Check-out-less shopping


The supermarket also aims to launch the Scan & Shop technology which is expected to be introduced in Redhill store in the near future. The technology will be deployed to completely replace the checkout process in the physical stores, remove the pain of queues and give the Sainsbury’s employees an opportunity to assist customers more, and so build a closer and more personal customer-seller relationship.

Clodagh Moriarty, director of online at Sainsbury’s said: "We have made some significant investments this year in our groceries online infrastructure to ensure our pickers and drivers have the right software and hardware to do the job in the most efficient and customer friendly way, such as faster scanning hardware. [However], when customers are able to checkout themselves, we can rebalance the storefront and redeploy workers where customer service really matters. "

She continued: "We [also] now have SmartShop in 60 stores, and we’re continuing to roll this out for our costumers who want to interact digitally in our stores. We’re continuing to experiment with payments: for example, we recently ran a trial in Euston where customers paid for meals using an in-store hanset or mobile phone. [In addition], we expanded on-demand ChopChop offering our 60 minutes delivery service or 30-minute click and collect service across zone 1 & 2, rolling this out from two to seven stores and are trialling embedded recipes on the ChopChop site."

Adoption of AI


Sainsbury’s continues to learn its clients’ preferences especially when it comes to shopping online, as part of a push towards a more personalised shopping experience. Its website is automated in a way to deliver a ’personal-shopper’ experience by sending real-time recommendations to online customers based on their previous purchasing patterns.

"We use AI all the time for our algorithms, we constantly learning what customers put in their baskets to understand what products are popular. We will use that more in the near future, but we also want a healthy balance between technology and people," said Clo Moriarty.

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