shop bags 225x300 The best and worst places to shop ranked by consumersThe annual Which!!! retailer survey results are in, and specialist toiletries and cosmetics retailer Lush is the best shop for a second year in a row,  with a customer score of an impressive 80%. However, bottom of the shops was EE (previously Orange or T Mobile shops),with a less impressive 52% customer score.

Which!!! surveyed 9,409 members of the public in February 2015 about the shops they have used in the last six months, and ranked them out of 100. The overall customer score is based on its customers’ satisfaction and how likely they are to recommend it to a friend. Satisfaction levels include the range and quality of products available, customer service, what the store is like to shop in and its pricing.

Top of the shops, Lush, was lauded for its product range, quality and customer service. It also gained credit for its environmental credentials, with shoppers praising its “cruelty free” products. And its smells. Nice mostly. Lush’s score of 80% just pipped that other perennial favourite John Lewis to the top spot, the department store scoring just less on 79%. The rest of the top ten is as follows:

1. Lush
2. John Lewis
3. Independent stores (DIY and decorating)
4. Richer Sounds
6. Apple
Home Bargains
8. Independent stores (furnishings and homeware)
9. Fenwick
Go Outdoors
White Stuff
Independent Stores (Electricals)

Which!!! editor Richard Headland said: ”If retailers can get their products right, along with excellent customer service and a great shopping environment, customers will keep coming back through their doors.”

However, despite  40% of consumers saying price was their top consideration, the Which!!! survey bods said that “although great prices might tempt customers through the doors, our research and analysis found that, once inside, the range and quality of products are the most important things in determining whether shoppers have a good experience – and whether they give it a high customer score.”

In line with these findings, independent shops were this year’s dark horses, with three different types making the top 10, on account of their customer service

Headland added: “With independent stores on the up in our annual survey, it shows a big name isn’t everything as consumers look for quality in both products and service.”

By contrast, the bottom places were packed full of bignames, and at the other end, phone shop EE came bottom, earning the joint accolade of worst phone shop and worst electrical retailer. WHSmith crawled off the bottom spot this year, but customers still find it ‘cluttered’. And Tesco’s woes continue with a poor 90th place (out of 100) showing in the survey.

90. Poundstretcher
92. Homebase
JD Sports
94. Sports Direct
96. BHS
98. Topshop/Topman
99. WHSmith
100. EE

So what do you think? Are the results about right, or have Which!!! got it totally wrong?

marks and spencer Marks & Spencer profits up for first time in yearsWhile most supermarkets are soiling themselves at the Lidl and Aldi onslaught, Marks & Spencer have been quietly getting on with it and, for the first time since 2011, they’ve delivered an increase in profits.

This has been thanks to not throwing their money around, not bothering with discounts and getting good deals with their suppliers.

As a result, M&S said it would return £150m to shareholders and saw their underlying profit before tax going up by 6.1%.

One fly in the ointment is that the retailer has had yet another difficult year with their M&S clothing wing. Basically, everyone thinks their clothes are rubbish.

They’ve fared much better with food sales though, which isn’t surprising if you’ve been in one of their shops recently. Mark Bolland, the chief exec, said their food arm had enjoyed an “outstanding year in a difficult market”, adding: “We are transforming M&S into a stronger, more agile business – putting the right infrastructure, capabilities and talent in place to drive our strategic priorities.”

With M&S and Waitrose doing well, and Aldi and Lidl performing strongly at the other end of the spectrum, it seems Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons need to decide whether to aim for the bargain-end of the market, or try and tackle the higher spending end with disposable income.

You’ll know that retailers have to impose all manner of rules on customers that are buying booze. They advise you drink responsibly and ask you not to drink them on the premises and all that jazz.

However, at WH Smith, they have drinking rules that are, to say the least, conceptual.

WH Smith Weirdness WH Smiths bizarre concept on drinking their booze

As you can see from the sign, they say: “Alcohol purchased in WH Smith cannot be consumed anywhere inside or outside these premises.” It seems like, should you want to crack open a tin of bitter, you might have to open up an extra dimension that is neither inside or outside the shop, or something.

Of course, this isn’t the most bizarre concept WH Smith has come up with – have you ever seen how they price things in train stations? Some of the basics are so expensive that it’ll make you feel like you’ve had a brain injury.

[nicked off Twitter]

Budget supermarkets win the taste test

May 11th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

aldi logo 252x300 Budget supermarkets win the taste testWe all know that the big supermarkets are losing out to the likes of Lidl and Aldi on price, but the bad news for them is that they’re also losing out on taste.

The Grocer magazine decided to do a taste test of 1,103 own-label products, and they found that Aldi and Lidl beat off the majority of supermarkets in Britain. Each of the budget supermarkets bagged 13 gold medals each in the annual Own Label Food & Drink Awards.

Asda also got themselves 13 golds, while M&S nabbed eight gold medals.

With a combination of experts and people off the street, the taste test was undertaken and Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons came up short, which will be even more worrying for the retailers.

Editor of The Grocer, Adam Leyland, said: “The number of entries we receive is a clear reflection of the growing importance of own label to retailers. And with competition as fierce as it is, excellence is essential.”

For those who still haven’t stepped foot inside an Aldi or Lidl, they’ve got higher end own-brand items, just like the competition. The quality of Specially Selected and Deluxe items is, according to this test, better than Tesco’s Finest and the like. Some of the items that fared well were Aldi’s Specially Selected vine tomato and lentil soup, the Specially Selected continental plum crumble tart, Moser Roth Madagascan vanilla chocolate and Specially Selected dopiaza curry sauce.

Lidl, meanwhile, scored well with their hot smoked salmon fillet with black pepper, Deluxe Red Leicester with green chilli and red peppers and their steak and ale pie.

Ronny Gottschlich, Lidl’s UK managing director, said: “The awards help to reinforce our message that low cost does not mean having to compromise on quality.”

Down the wrong end of opinion, Morrisons only managed one gold, while Sainsbury’s had absolutely none. It is worth pointing out that Waitrose decided that they didn’t want to enter any products into this test.

Morrisons sales are down, unsurprisingly

May 7th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

morrisons 300x300 Morrisons sales are down, unsurprisinglyYou might want to sit down for this news – Morrisons continues to have a rubbish time of it, reporting yet another fall in their sales.

Like-for-like sales (excluding fuel) fell 2.9% in the three months to 3rd May, which is a poorer performance than the previous drop, where they was sales falling by 2.6%. This of course, meant that the supermarket’s shares took a tumble to the tune of 6% in the early trading.

Of course, any mention of a struggling supermarket isn’t complete without pointing at Aldi and Lidl.

You’ll know that Sainsbury’s also announced that they were having a lousy time of it as well, hamstrung by the value of their properties falling through the floor. Tesco have also announced an annual loss last month.

David Potts, who took over as chief executive from Dalton Philips, said: ”My initial impressions from my first seven weeks are of a business eager to listen to customers and improve.” One of the things they’re doing is to get rid of a load of self-service tills and replace them with human beings.

However, there’s no hiding from the fact that Morrisons have closed more stores than they’ve opened during the quarter, and there’s the small matter of 720 people losing their jobs in the company’s HQ.

Morrisons said a full assessment is being undertaken, and there’s going to be more results to share in September.

a child on the internet 300x182 Is a single digital market on the way?The internet is supposed to be a global thing, but entertainment companies insist on geo-locking their product, making certain elements of online frustrating and pointless.

With that, the European Commission have a plan to make a ”digital single market”, which aims to remove the borders from the content we get online. It is a nice idea, and obviously, one that is set to be fraught with red-tape and problems.

However, if it works, that means that Netflix, Sky Go and iPlayer could be available to everyone across the whole of the EU. The commission themselves say that the idea is that EU residents can enjoy “the same online content and services regardless of the EU country (they) are in”.

Another good thing that could spring out of this is the end of roaming charges. There could also be cheaper parcel deliveries, as everyone will be allowed to browse stores that reside in different companies, that are cheaper.

The European Commission has guessed that this could create (up to) £250bn in additional growth. Hopefully, this would mean companies could focus on better prices, better services and a better quality of products, because they’ll be investing in those rather than wrestling with regulations.

As an aside, this is a move from the EU to tackle the dominance of Google and Facebook, who incidentally, are being probed along with Amazon. This is a different investigation from the antitrust one. There’s going to be a report on the transparency of search results and there’s a potential for some regulation against them.

Sainsbury’s announce £72m loss

May 6th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

sainsburys 300x192 Sainsburys announce £72m lossWe talked about Sainsbury’s woes yesterday, and today, they heralded an annual loss for the first time in a decade.

The supermarket predicted that the coming year was going to be bleak, and expected like-for-like sales to remain negative in 2015/16, and blamed much of their pre-tax loss of £72m on a £753m charge it booked in during their half-year results in November.

Of course, the big problem for the chain is like-for-like sales falling 1.9% (over the 52 weeks to 14 March) with underlying profits falling by nearly 15%. When it comes to day-to-day trading, Sainsbury’s are not looking well.

Chief executive Mike Coupe said: “The UK marketplace is changing faster than at any time in the past 30 years which has impacted our profits, like-for-like sales and market share. We know that our customers still want the best quality food at great prices and our strategy is built on our strong foundations of selling great food with a focus on quality, provenance and sustainability.”

“At the same time, we know that our customers want value for money and we have therefore invested in lowering our prices; our prices versus our competitors have never been better.”

Sainsbury’s will be overseeing hundreds of job losses too. Still, as long as Mike Coupe doesn’t go to Egypt and get thrown in prison, they should be fine.

Aldi take huge delivery of cocaine

May 6th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

aldi logo 252x300 Aldi take huge delivery of cocaineThe folks at Aldi have had the surprise of their lives, as cocaine worth €15m was delivered to them. Of course, Aldi aren’t trying to muscle in on the drugs trade, as far as we know, but if they sold it for cheaper than your average dealer, they’d do a roaring trade on it.

Joking aside, the coke was shipped to them in error, hidden away in crates of bananas destined for the shelves of the bargain supermarket.

Over 300kg of cocaine was found at 13 shops in Berlin and Brandenburg.

Aldi staff found the drugs wrapped up in between the bananas as they unpacked the fruit. The informed the police, and their spokesman, Stefan Redlich, said the smugglers must have made a “logistical error” as the haul was travelling from Colombia to Hamburg.

Remarkably, this is the second time in 18 months that Aldi has taken a huge shipment of class As. In January 2014, 140 kilos of cocaine were found tucked away inside deliveries to five Aldi supermarkets in Berlin.

If Tesco are only half listening to this story, you can expect them to start looking into the heroin trade, no doubt. Anything to try and get one over on the supermarkets that have been eating away at their customer base.

sainsburys 300x192 Sainsburys: have they had it or will they make a comeback?Sainsbury’s have got a fight on their hands if they want to retain their place in the market… and of course, it isn’t looking too great for the supermarket at the moment.

While most supermarkets are downsizing, because consumers have voted with their feet and walked away from the megastores, Sainsbury’s are doing the opposite, and have just opened a behemoth of a shop in Wandsworth which is 80,000 square feet in size.

Sainsbury’s has already taken millions of pounds of write-downs on their property value, but Saino’s chief finance officer John Rogers said that this new expanded store is proof that they’re fighting back. They’ll be doing similar projects in Fulham, Ladbroke Grove and Whitechapel. There’s a hope that they’ll be recouping money through in-store concessions with Jessops and Argos.

However, Goldman Sachs issued a warning, saying that supermarkets needed to cut space by roughly 20% if they want to survive in the current market. This excessive space is costing Sainsbury’s a lot of money, as they are expected to report its first annual pretax loss tomorrow. That’ll be their first loss in a decade, complete with their £628m of write-downs thanks to sites they’ve decided to stop developing.

A couple of months ago, the retailer reported a 1.9% fall in fourth-quarter like-for-like sales, which is their fifth quarterly decline on the bounce.

One of the things that chief exec Mike Coupe hopes to revive the company is a double-teaming with Dansk in a bid to bring Netto back to the UK. If Aldi and Lidl are doing well, then everyone might go for some bargains at Netto. Sainsbury’s themselves are looking to simplify the way they sell things too, with £150m in price cuts and better promotions.

Woolworths staff lose compensation scrap

April 30th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

woolworth Woolworths staff lose compensation scrapThousands of staff that used to work at Woolworths (and Ethel Austin) have lost their legal fight for redundancy compensation after a court ruling.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) backed a Government appeal and agreed that the outlets that had less than 20 members of staff are to be excluded from an obligation to consult over redundancies, which means they don’t qualify for compensation.

This particular ruling overturns the findings of an employment tribuna, which means that the 3,200 members of staff that were employed by Woolworths won’t get any money. The same can be said for 1,200 ex-workers of Ethel Austin.

Those who worked at bigger stores will get redundancy payouts.

The USDAW shopworkers union’s general secretary John Hannett said: “This decision marks the end of the road for our members from Woolworths and Ethel Austin seeking justice and they are heartbroken by today’s verdict.”

“Our case is morally and logically robust, so today’s verdict is a kick in the teeth. It is unfair and makes no sense that workers in stores of less than 20 employees were denied compensation, whereas their colleagues in larger stores did qualify for the award. These were mass redundancy situations where one central decision was made to close the whole company down, with no individual analysis of the viability of each store on a case-by-case basis.”

The union added: “Usdaw is now turning its attention to seeking a change in the law to protect future redundant workers from suffering the same injustice.”

Argos open 200 new digital stores

April 30th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

argos logo 300x230 Argos open 200 new digital storesArgos is continuing to makes strides into the future (by which we mean ‘having some computers and stuff’) by opening 200 new digitally enabled shops. What does that mean? Replacing tiny pencils and pads of paper for touchscreens and the like.

So, while you’re looking for Frozen dolls, dumbbells, boxes of Toffifee and a thing to mount your telly on the wall, you’ll be doing it by prodding at a piece of technology, rather than feeling like you’ve got a gigantic hand while holding such a teensy pencil.

Argos will open 80 new outlets in Homebase and another 10 in some Sainsbury’s outlets.

At one point, it looked like Argos were going to be closing a number of stores, thanks to everyone buying things online instead, however, they’re in bullish mood and will have increased their outlets to 800 by next year.

The chief executive of Argos’ parent group, HRG, John Walden, said he’s thinking of more openings too because he thinks that consumer confidence is going to pick up in the second half of the year. “The key indicators are pointing to starting to see benefits coming through,” he said.

Either way, DEATHWATCH: Tiny Pencils.

Morrisons to axe self-service tills

April 30th, 2015 10 Comments By Mof Gimmers

morrisons 300x300 Morrisons to axe self service tillsWe’ve spoken about Morrisons and their want to bring back self-service tills on a number of occasions, and now, the struggling supermarket has confirmed it. Self checking out will wane, while 10 items-or-less lanes are coming back.

1,000 tills with human staff will be appearing and there’ll be less of the robots.

Why is this? Well, Morrisons new boss David Potts has revealed that 96% of the supermarket’s customers have told him that they prefer staffed checkouts. They like to chat to someone while they shop and two-thirds of those asked said that they didn’t like self-service tills because they are worried that they’ll hold everyone up and create queues while they wait for staff to override machines that blart on with warnings and can’t scan products.

Some people prefer the machines, so they won’t be getting rid of all of them. Potts said: “We’re listening hard to our customers and responding quickly wherever possible. If customers from time to time do smaller shops they want to get in and out of our stores quickly.”

“Not everyone wants to be herded towards the self-scanning checkouts and not everyone has a full trolley.”

Only last month, Morrisons decided to lose their computerised queue management system. Now, instead of relying on a computer to tell staff when another till needs opening, they’ll rely on humans with eyes who can recognise that there’s a big queue and the shop is quite busy.

Even the stores mentioned in this piece about Tesco’s heavy reliance on self-service checkouts have decided to go back to having manned tills in the stores.

The British Retail Consortium think that customers are becoming increasingly cheesed-off with self checkout tills. A spokesperson for that lot, said: “If the evidence shows that customers prefer manned checkouts then supermarkets will want to show that any face to face contact they give will be the best available.”

Sainsburys chief exec sentenced to jail

April 29th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

sainsburys 300x192 Sainsburys chief exec sentenced to jailWith sales being low and having to sack loads of people, you’d think Sainsbury’s were having a bad enough time of it. Well, today, their mountain of faeces was added to as the Sainsbury’s chief executives are dealing with their colleague, Mike Coupe, being given a two-year jail sentence in Egypt.

Coupe is the head of Sainsbury’s and has been convicted by a Giza court (very different from a ‘geezer court’ where you get your Stone Island jacket confiscated from you) for allegedly trying to seize cheques from Egyptian businesses while the supermarket was trying to crack the country 16 years ago.

The court decided convict Mike Coupe because, basically, he’s Sainsbury’s most senior employee. The supermarket’s boss didn’t bother going to the trial so was convicted in absentia. No holidays to the great pyramids for Mike then, or they’ll have him at the airport.

Of course, Coupe wasn’t employed by Sainsbury’s in 2001 and hasn’t even met the complainant, so the whole thing reeks of farce. A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said: “We have taken all necessary steps to appeal against these groundless claims and will continue to do so.”

Sainsbry’s attempt to win over Egyptians didn’t go well and the supermarket ended up losing £111m on the whole venture. Shares in the stores opened were sold to Amr El Nasharty who subsequently accused Saino’s of selling him shares in an insolvent business. Sainsbury’s themselves accused El Nasharty of paying for shares with a cheque that bounced, leaving the whole thing sounding as tinpot as can be.

“Mr El Nasharty is now claiming that Mike was in Egypt on 15th July 2014 and seized these cheques, which is an impossibility. Mike Coupe was in London carrying out his normal duties that day,” the spokeswoman continued.

If we were to compile a list of the most ‘meaningful’ brands, we’re not sure that Amazon would be top of our list, but according to a survey of 300,000 people worldwide, Amazon is the most ‘meaningful’ brand in the UK with 64% of people saying they would care if the retailer disappeared. Slightly more ‘ethical’ brands M&S and John Lewis came in at second and third, respectively, and supermarkets Aldi and Sainsbury’s completing the top five.

The global study was conducted by Havas and surveyed of 300,000 people over 34 countries covering 1,000 brands across 12 industries. Rather than looking at brand recognition, the Meaningful Brands metric looks at how consumers’ “quality of life and wellbeing” is affected by brands. Specifically, the survey looked at how brands “impact self-esteem, healthy lifestyles, connectivity with friends and family, making lives easier, fitness and happiness” as well as more traditional market factors such as quality and price of goods. Golly.

Globally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, technology brands accounted for nearly a third of the top 50 global Meaningful Brands with Samsung, Google and Sony all featuring near the top of the global list. However, technology giant Apple didn’t come anywhere near the top 20, languishing at number 45 on the list.

Although Amazon are still riding high, Starbucks was among one of the worst performers, with only 14% of people saying they would give a caramel latte if Starbucks disappeared, with criticisms over its tax policies accounting for a 6% fall in favour.

And being ‘meaningful’ can be quite meaningful to a brand’s bottom line. The ‘Share of Wallet’ calculation used in the survey compared the percentage spent with a meaningful brand versus the total annual expenditure within its particular category. The survey founds that brands ranking highly on the list, received, on average 46% higher spend, with some brands showing as much as a seven fold increase.

The full list of the Top 20 ‘meaningful’ brands in the UK, and across the world is as follows:

top 20 brands Amazon tops the most meaningful brands to UK consumers list

Sainsbury’s to axe 800 in-store jobs

April 23rd, 2015 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

sainsburys 300x192 Sainsburys to axe 800 in store jobsSainsbury’s are going to get rid of 800 jobs in their stores as they try and find ways of saving £500m over the next three years. This follows their cut of 500 jobs at the head office in January.

Roger Burnley, retail and operations director, said: “These are exceptionally difficult decisions to make and we have not taken them lightly. We set out very clearly last year that we have to reflect the changes in when and how our customers are shopping. These proposals will help us maintain and improve customer service by having more colleagues on hand and well-replenished shelves at all times.”

Of course, this apes the moves made by Asda and Morrisons who offloaded thousands of staff last year. Tesco, in the middle of their most nightmarish period, are also sacking loads of people too.

Sainsbury’s won’t be having a nightshift team anymore, which means that some of that staff will be redeployed, potentially for morning shifts in a bid to change the way and the timing of when products hit the shelves.

Either way, Sainsbury’s main concern should be why customers don’t really want to shop their like they used to. It is all very well saving money on wages, but they need to shake things up in-store if they want people to start opening their wallets and purses to them again.