M&S and Sainsbury’s aim to ensure consumer demand for quality and value is effectively met.

Justin King & Marc Bolland

Cash-conscious consumers are changing their shopping patterns as they seek value, but are still willing to spend on quality, Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland  and Sainsbury’s boss Justin King said this week.

Bargain-hunting has led to an increase in promotions at M&S while at Sainsbury’s shoppers are typically putting one less item in their basket per week.

Bolland said that M&S upped the ante on promotions during its first half in recognition of the promotional environment.

About 25% of the retailer’s general merchandise range was on promotion during the period, although that compared with 35% across the entire retail sector.

Bolland said there is unlikely to be any let-up. “Will deals and promotions ease off? I don’t think so,” he said.

However, Bolland noted: “The customer’s telling us it’s not all about price – ‘we want something that suits us or that we feel comfortable in’. Christmas is going to be about bringing out things that are different.”

He said that “Saturday night is the new Sunday lunchtime”, when people like to be with their families and M&S’s food offers such as its ‘Dine In’ promotions were in tune with the trend and are selling well.

King said the average shopper is spending up to £5 less on their weekly supermarket shop and less on top-up shopping. However, the retailer is drawing 1 million new shoppers per week and King was confident that Sainsbury’s combination of value and quality would ensure its continued appeal.

He said the strapline ‘Live Well for Less’ “is just an advertising line if we don’t stand it up” and said there is “no compromise on quality”.

King observed that shoppers are buying Sainsbury’s Basics range for everyday cooking and Taste the Difference for special occasions – sales of both are up.

He said JS aims to repeat the “knock your lights out performance” of last Christmas.

Sainsbury’s Interims

  • Pre-tax profits: £354m ▲
  • Sales: £11.69bn ▲
  • Like-for-likes: +1.9%

M&S Interims

  • Pre-tax profits: £320.5m ▲
  • Total UK sales: £4.17bn ▲
  • UK like-for-likes: +0.5%