There seems to have been an alarming recent trend to label days of the week in retail, a la Sky Sports.

There seems to have been an alarming recent trend to label days of the week in retail, a la Sky Sports.

This is often on the consumer-facing side of things (Black Friday, Cyber Monday etc.), but there has also been some occurrences of naming days where a large number of retailers report results, with Mega Thursday among the culprits.

Today possibly merits a title of its own. Lacklustre Thursday. Excuses Thursday. Jam Tomorrow Thursday. Blaming a Tough Market, Even Though It’s Precisely The Same Market That Your More Successful Competitors Operate In Thursday.

Call it what you wish, there can be little disagreement with Justin King that this has been one of the toughest Christmas grocery markets in 30 years.

Lots of reasons why. First and foremost has been the coming of age of our German chums, with Aldi and Lidl running rings around the big four in terms of offering what shoppers want (convenience, simplicity, quality and economy of time as well as money).

An overlooked second factor has been the rise of the high street discounters, an under-documented class of grocery trade that is undoubtedly stealing shopping trips and market share from the big grocers.

A third factor is that of online retail. This will have obviously hurt those who don’t do it (Morrisons), but I can’t help but feel that there will have been a degree of self-cannibalisation too: online shoppers are well disciplined and are not given to whimsically piling several metre-long packages of Jaffa Cakes into their online baskets. The big online grocers are depriving themselves shopping trips and impulse buys.  

The final two main factors are, I think, interconnected. One is shopper promiscuity – a willingness of shoppers to spread their spend across many different retailers on many different occasions to complete many different shopper missions.

The second point here is that of homogenisation. Once you get past fresh, all the supermarkets are essentially the same. And thanks to the prevalence of price-matching schemes, they all have similar prices too (Asda’s 10% price guarantee excluded, obviously). In short, shopper loyalty is dead or dying.

And what are the supermarkets doing to differentiate? Well, not a lot. The massive levels of couponing and vouchering going on are great for temporarily wooing shoppers: much like a 17-year-old lad with a souped-up Opel Manta – attractive for the short term, but not necessarily a desirable life partner.

This has to be the big push for 2014: value, differentiation and loyalty. Supermarkets need to offer genuine value beyond price – we shoppers want quality and service too. Supermarkets need to ramp up their differentiation – looking the same, saying the same and doing the same has become fairly tiresome.

And loyalty really is key. I don’t mean a plastic card. Loyalty is not a strategy; it is an outcome – an outcome of consistently doing the right thing by shoppers.  

Bryan Roberts, director of retail insights, Kantar Retail