There is more to the supermarket experience than price, which is why discounters need to address the problems around payment.
Ever spent time queueing? If you’re a Brit, the view from some quarters is that you may actually like doing it, but the truth is that this is unlikely. That is why the big supermarkets have, over the years, offered us a variety of ways of checking out, ranging from self-scanning to manned tills.
In most instances a measure of queueing will be involved, whatever the chosen method. Increasingly, though, new tills are appearing that eliminate the human and automate the scanning (right down to one system from Sweden that actually recognises a product and does the scanning for you).
Now, head down to your local discounter and join the line. Much is made of the fact that the products may be as good as, or occasionally better than, the offers from the Big Four, but it’s a racing certainty that you’re still going to find yourself in a line. Standing in a queue in Lidl on Saturday, the queues were growing by the second and those customers with only a couple of items were becoming frustrated.
“The p*** off factor”
At this point an alternative, any alternative, to hanging around would have been preferable. A senior retail executive with an interest in such things recently called this “the p*** off factor”, being how far a retailer can push things before the customer heads off somewhere else.
In the case of Lidl and Aldi, they have actually come a long way. Time was when barcodes in these places were a rarity and the use of credit cards was for others. Now both are in place and things are better.
“How much shoppers will put up with is what will determine the shape of the discount interior to come”
The discount fly in the ointment, however, remains the queue. Even a basket-only fast checkout would lighten the burden, but this seems a step too far.
The challenge for the biggest grocers has been to meet the keen pricing offered by the discounters and they appear to have risen to it, up to a point. The task that now faces the discounters, if they want to see their stellar growth continue, is to offer a couple more options, at least, when it comes to payment.
How much shoppers will put up with is what will determine the shape of the discount interior to come. As Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and, to an extent, Waitrose raise their games and lower their prices, the ball will be in the discounters’ court. The grocery future is far from determined.