Not a very supermarket

State of the nation: a world credit crunch leaves no corner of industry untouched. Every business is feeling the squeeze. The retail sector is a battleground with stores desperate just to hold onto market share and ride out the storm.

With one remarkable exception: Business analysts are flocking to Sainsburies at Kingsway in Derby to try and understand how they are able to successfuly operate in a way that defies commercial logic. They observe the following:

  • Far too few trolleys which are rarely returned to bays near the store entrance. Shoppers have walk to all four corners of the carpark in all weathers to find a trolley so they can get on with the business of shopping.
  • Customers arriving on foot, of which there are many, must negotiate the relentless traffic flow without the aid of any pedestrian crossing.
  • Once in the store there are always missing mainstream stock items. Which rare & exotic grocery will be missing this week? Will it be onions, apples or maybe carrots?
  • Every few weeks whole sections will be entirely absent. Sorry, no fresh fish counter today. Or perhaps the chiller units are out of order so there will be no meat.
  • Sometimes when stock is regrettably available the store will move sections around just to make it harder to find what you want. “I say, soup’s selling well – lets move it a few aisles away for no reason so people can’t find it any more.”
  • Finally, why not alienate the people who have stuck with this farce as far as the till by charging the wrong amount? Labelled 2 for 1 on the shelf? Not at the till. Reduced item? To you – full price. In one case I was asked to pay £47 for 6 items in a basket by an unblinking checkout girl. I had to point out that this couldn’t be right and it took several minutes to recalculate the bill as less than a tenner. No apology or reason of course.

    Rival groups are hoping to understand this marketing approach so they too can operate with impunity and save costs on management, staffing and facilities.