We’re now in for a period of speculation about what the Sainsbury’s-Asda connection might mean for the major UK grocery players, and who’s next.
If this deal gets the go-ahead, it’s tempting to think that it will probably be a bit like Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods Market, insofar as in-store things may not actually look different, but prices may come down in Sainsbury’s.
But it’s worth considering the way these two rivals’ shops look. Asda, aka Walmart UK, is doggedly utilitarian and heading for one of its outposts is about saving money.
To an extent this is reflected in its fit-out, with many of the larger stores still having what those outside the sector might refer to as ‘racks’ to display the George clothing offer.
Now compare this with Sainsbury’s which, for the most part, has an altogether warmer and less promotional feel.
Here, low price, in spite of the recent slashing of margin to bring down the prices of hundreds of SKUs, is important, but it isn’t the be all and end all.
Indeed, in a significant number of locations there is a spillover of the Waitrose demographic into Sainsbury’s aisles.
“The design department at Sainsbury’s has done an awful lot… the same cannot really be said of Asda”
All of this means that there is sufficient blue water between the Sainsbury’s and Asda brands that they can be kept separate.
But wouldn’t it be a good idea to at least try and bring the Asda store environments up towards the level of its big four rival?
Just because it wants to have a keenly priced offer, that doesn’t have to mean that shoppers should feel cheap when they enter its doors.
The design department at Sainsbury’s has done an awful lot over the past few years to make the grocer’s stores pleasant places.
The same cannot really be said of Asda.
For shoppers, one of the positives of this nascent deal is that entering an Asda may become less of a Maginot Line-like distress purchase and more of a chance to visit stores that feel genuinely welcoming.
Asda has an awful lot of catching up to do as far as its store appearance is concerned, and with its know-how, Sainsbury’s will be in a position to make this happen.
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