Most, but not all, supermarkets are adept at lessening the pain of shopping for food, but more could still be done.

Most, but not all, supermarkets are adept at lessening the pain of shopping for food, but more could still be done.

It’s amazing how familiar we are with our supermarkets. Most shoppers tend to have a supermarket that they go to, usually the one that’s closest, and therefore a pretty intimate knowledge of what’s what and how a particular store works becomes almost second nature.

The point about supermarkets is less that they inspire loyalty and rather more that they are about change, or rather the lack of it. As soon as something is moved the cry goes up that it’s no longer easy to find your way around and there’s resentment that a new layout has to be learnt. There are occasions, however, when in-store change in a supermarket is good and makes things better for shoppers.

The Sainsbury’s store in London’s Camden Town would perhaps be a good example of this. Last week, new graphics and shelf-‘wobblers’ (the 2D pieces of POS that stand proud of a shelf) appeared in one of the aisles. It was a simple change to effect - low cost and immediately noticeable. What it did was to lend this part of the supermarket warmth and novelty for a very low investment.

Of course, few people actually noticed, but that is hardly the point. With food shopping it’s a matter of minimising the boredom and making the whole experience less tiresome than it might otherwise be. And what has been done in Sainsbury’s Camden will probably have a subliminal effect on those who visit – they will feel better about shopping this store.

The same is true of what Waitrose has done lately in the wines and spirits area of its Kingston store. With the addition of a few pendant lights, some coloured pillars and back-lighting, this store has actually become the sort of place that you might want to spend time in – a real achievement in supermarket terms.

Yet if food retailing is about the provision of provender with the minimum of fuss, then why bother with all of these fripperies? The answer is that food retailing is about rather more than this and experience, conscious or otherwise, is at the heart of this part of retail as much as any other.

Food shopping is something that we all have to do, so it might as well be pleasant. And in spite of their phenomenal growth, Aldi and Lidl could do something to improve the shopper’s in-store lot.