As Poundland and Tesco give their two pence on the deadline for shoppers to spend their old £1 coins, are other retailers missing a trick by not speaking up?
The grocery giant had a last-minute change of heart on the issue, just six days before the October 15 deadline – and, a cynic could argue, after seeing the positive press attention Poundland received for taking a stance.
Although Tesco and Poundland are dramatically different businesses in many ways, their respective strategies focus on giving cash-conscious customers value for money – be it through a £1 sex toy or the iconic ‘every little helps’ slogan.
The reality is, very few shoppers are going to have a stash of old £1 coins to splurge at Tesco and Poundland next week.
Taking a stand on the issue will have a minimal impact on their businesses – but it has made a big splash in allowing them to trumpet about putting the customer before corporate demands.
Being seen to put your neck (or wallet) on the line for the good of your shoppers is a trend that has paid dividends in recent months.
Compare Boots’ sorry saga around the hefty price tag of its morning-after pill – subsequently labelled a “sexist surcharge” by MPs − with Tesco covering the cost of the tampon tax for its customers.
Both gained the attention of customers and the press alike, but while Boots alienated female shoppers, Tesco impressed them.
The lesson is that retailers have an opportunity to make a name for themselves by sticking their flag in the ground on issues that matter to their shoppers – or craft a stick to beat themselves with by ignoring them.
Retail veteran Lord Stuart Rose said earlier this year that retailers should speak up or shut up on issues that impacted the industry.
He may have been talking about Brexit, but it is a reality for retailers debating whether to weigh in on other important topics.
Poundland boss Barry Williams said the decision to accept the round pound coins from shoppers until the end of the month was a “no-brainer” – and by taking a stance, he has won the attention of the press and shoppers alike.
The retail sector has been dogged by negative headlines in recent years, be it through woeful warehouse conditions, scandal-ridden administrations or vast pension fund deficits.
The question of how to change the narrative around the sector could lie not in cowering behind perfectly polished press releases, but by retail leaders sticking a head above the parapet and stating, categorically and in plain English, what they think about the issues facing shoppers today.
If an old £1 coin is enough to spark a rebellion, there’s a myriad of other issues that retailers could put their shoulder, their voices and their money behind.