Sainsbury’s 50p retail blunder is a reminder to all retailers about the importance of playing smart in the on-going price war.
If you search Buzzfeed for the word ‘retail’, up pops 23 Epically Wrong Retail Fails.
The list is the usual Buzzfeed content: bananas labelled as “long yellow things”, products that are misspelt and shop names in foreign countries which sound deeply inappropriate in English.
What should, however, perhaps be number 24 on the list is the Sainsbury’s poster that encouraged its staff to try and get an extra 50p from every customer on each visit (well, I’m sure we’ve all done it).
At number 25 I’d add the Twitter conversation trail that followed, as an increasingly anxious member of the Sainsbury’s social media team tried to return it to the staff room where it belonged and before it became really embarrassing. Oops.
Now this story is wonderful on so many levels. I was once told that customers only know the exact price of eight things, ie the products that they buy regularly. But I don’t buy anything regularly that costs 50p.
“As a retailer I’m thinking: 50p? Is that really the limit of our ambition? Why not £1?”
Jacqueline Gold, Ann Summers
Which got me wondering: what would you have to upsell in a supermarket to increase your customer average transaction value by 50p? After a look around, I found the answer – own-label biscuits.
So I began envisioning supermarket staff breezily walking the aisles, while surreptitiously slipping a pink wafer or some chocolate fingers into customers’ trolleys.
Then as a retailer, I’m also thinking: 50p? Is that really the limit of our ambition? Why not £1?
It’s hard enough getting customers into stores at the best of times – once they’re in your shop, you’ve really got to make hay.
After all there’s a (price) war on out there and you can’t man the retail barricades armed with Bourbons and Jaffa Cakes – you’ll come across all Marie Antoinette and that really will send them off to Aldi and Lidl.
Of course these things are always more amusing when they happen to someone else, not least because there’s a part of all of us that thinks there but for the grace of God go I.
So we could mark it down as a simple mistake and laugh it off.
Alternatively it could become part of a more serious discussion about brand values, business transparency and the now not-so-big difference between the big supermarkets and the discounters.
Either way, it could have been worse. It wasn’t Sainsbury’s that overstated its expected profits by £250m – something that quite possibly would go straight in at number one in the list of fails.
- Jacqueline Gold is chief executive of Ann Summers