With Christmas eve falling on a Saturday, and most supermarkets reporting their trading week from Sunday to Saturday, this coming week promises to be one of the biggest ever. In fact, most supermarkets will double the sales through their tills compared to a week in October.
We know the customer tends to move to the bigger sites for a one stop shop so it was timely to do a supermarket Christmas review and see how the supermarkets were set up for this big week of trading. Here’s what we saw when we hit the aisles:
ASDA – Although troubled with falling sales this year and an eroded point of difference on price, ASDA are fighting back. We like the fact they have strong offers on the core Christmas shop. Having all the Christmas lines grouped together makes shopping much easier and they can show case their range. This could cause a bottleneck in the last panic days of shopping though.
General availability has improved, but there are still some problems to fix in household and pet. Service at the tills seems much faster, with plenty of people waiting to process your shopping.
Overall, our impressions was of a store in much better shape, but is that the result of the strategy or the fact there are less people shopping in their stores, so they are under less pressure? The one thing still missing is the ASDA fun shopping experience; unfortunately, it is still a bit dull.
Morrisons – Still getting to grips with a switch of ordering system, Morrisons core availability is struggling. Patchy availability in grocery, BWS and fresh will hurt them this year, but their Christmas and promotional areas are very strong.
Market street, particularly produce, looks and feels well set up. Early in the New Year, high on the to do list is to sort the core availability issues out.
Waitrose – We like their marketing campaign giving the customer a day by day promotional calendar in the form of a till receipt. Knowing that Christmas dinner accompaniments were on offer last Wednesday did bring customers back into store. They range some exciting and interesting food products, but operationally core availability is a problem that still needs to be fixed. We saw significant gaps a couple of months ago, and they are still there.
Sainsbury’s – Set up this week is good but a bit underwhelming with the centre aisle lacking drama and the stores generally lacking theatre. Strong food performance has helped Sainsburys to stave off the declines seen at Morrisons and ASDA, and there is evidence food will continue to help them but it isn’t through price. The customer could get similar Christmas lines on offer for less at the other grocers.
We do think they are still missing a trick with TU clothing: the quality is good, and good value for money but the display and merchandising in store lets it down. Time for some real clothing experts to give this a shake up and get the return it should be delivering.
We do like the Sainsbury’s counters; the range is one of the best, if not the best of the big four. Set ups are good and consistent. Such a shame that in the stores we visited, customer service was let down at the checkout, slow and not enough tills open.
Tesco – Still heading back towards the dominating position they once held, their focus on less peripheral business is paying off. Stores are full and checkouts well manned. It was also the best store for delivering Christmas theatre, with a great centre aisle or action alley, strong displays and Christmas music. The core offer is solid and there are plenty of deals on Christmas essentials and must haves, particularly the larger sizes. Checkouts were well manned and the staff seem to be happy and engaging. Tesco on a march!
With the biggest week just kicked off, and the biggest shopping day of the year expected this Friday, it will be interesting to see who deals with the customer numbers the best. This Friday is predicted to exceed £3bn in takings. The customer can often be lured into a new shopping habits based on their experience this week, so while the lion’s share of that £3bn is nice, the potential for growth into the New Year is nicer still.