sainsburys mission trial

Sainsbury’s are on a mission

Sainsbury’s is trialling a new “mission-based” store layout in six stores in England in an attempt to keep pace with customer shopping trends. Retail Remedy went along to see how far Sainsbury’s would push the boundaries.

The new layout is described as radically different, helping customers that are now shopping more often with a specific mission in mind.

Headline features of the trial stores include:

  • A food-to-go section and bakery positioned near the checkouts
  • Non-food space increased by around 30%
  • Clothing, lifestyle and tech positioned around the periphery of the shop
  • More till options like self checkout and manned tills, for baskets and for trolleys
  • New SmartShop App which takes the customers shopping list, guides them round the store and offers easy checkout.

The overall impression for Retail Remedy was largely positive. The speed at which the trial has come to fruition from its concept only 4 months ago is leaps and bounds ahead of where Sainsbury’s has been in the past. The pace of growth of Sainsbury’s core supermarkets has been out of pace with its convenience stores and either presented a risk or an opportunity.

Sainsbury’s have taken it as an opportunity and have effectively created a shop in shop, a convenience shop within a core supermarket. The impact is a few adjacencies that feel weird, e.g. tech next to household cleaning or frozen goods mid store, but for the top up shopper, or the food-to-go shopper it works.

sainsburys mission trial

The fresh produce area at front of store does feel very much like Market Street in Morrison’s and therefore hardly what we would call radical, but it does fit with that shopping mission well and allows customers to come in and only shop ¼ of the store without having to walk further into the store than their busy schedules permit.

The “SmartShop” app under trial has already seen some early adopters. The customer creates their shopping list at home on a mobile or tablet, and in store is converted into an aisle by aisle map to guide the shopper through the store quickly. Items are scanned as they go making for a quick checkout at the till. The adoption rate is very encouraging for this stage in the trial so it will be fascinating to see how it continues to be used.

Grocery ranges have been rationalised to create additional space for general merchandise, taking lessons from its convenience stores and nectar data; we expect a minimum impact on sales in these categories and definite growth within General Merchandise.

sainsburys mission format clothing

Despite delivering a more comprehensive offer within Clothing the same old poor operational execution was apparent in the trial store we visited. The space is still compromised for the customer with narrow aisles and size availability poor. A problem that despite speed in other areas, is very slow to be addressed.

Categories that are purchased infrequently are situated at the furthest corner of the store which makes sense in terms of the shopping mission but it will make shopping trolley organisation tricky with heavy items sitting on top of fresh produce. Equally a frozen foods aisle mid shop for a weekly shopping mission presents defrosting challenges by the time the product gets to the checkout.

sainsburys mission check out

The new trial is only 2 weeks in, but we think we can predict a couple of issues. The format feels like it has shifted too far over to the “top-up shop” mission and may have a negative impact for “big-shops.”. However, a dilution of the “top-up shop” mission would make the format a tweak rather than a radical shift towards meeting customer needs.

Sainsbury’s are on a mission to adapt to the customer and this is applauded. More risk, more agility, more trials, more innovation is needed and they are delivering. Some things will work and some won’t but it is a learning curve that they will benefit from.


We are seasoned grocers and would only be too happy to talk to you about your grocery business. Please get in touch with the retail consultants that have been there and get it.

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