My Grocery Shopping Experience.

FMCG, brand awarenessMy wife has been temporarily incapacitated and I’ve been doing the weekly “big shop” for the past couple of months.


I looked forward to this, as in the past I’ve enjoyed Grocery store-checks as an information gathering exercise – seeing who’s active, new product launches, what products are on promotion, what offers there were – in the FMCG categories in which I or my clients operated.


There is an unwritten adage in business that says you support the clients who support you and remain loyal even if that client may not have the particular advantage, benefit or indeed price, you’re looking for. And for sure, private label was never to be purchased – unless for research purposes – as you were earning your living in and from the branded goods business.  But that’s another day’s rant.


That said, it’s been an interesting time seeing how the different retailers are reacting to the crisis on a daily basis and there’s no doubt there is an almighty dogfight for the weekly household budget. According to Checkout, Nielsen recently reported that in 2012 almost 40% of all goods sold will be on promotion or some other kind of offer and more worringly that Private Label will account for almost 30% of all sales.


This is obviously extremely frustrating for Manufacturers who invest and bring to market branded products that consumers want, only to see their investment eroded by Retailer’s knocking-off their brands and services quicker than ever before. Some are willing participants and will happily supply an own label offering of their product; others reluctantly do so and a brave few refuse despite the growing concentration of ever increasing buying power. Again, another day’s rant.


Anyway, the scorecard after 6 weeks of dedicated grocery shopping:


Dunnes Stores, Cornelscourt

On more recent visits Dunnes have upped their offer and have been stuffing the store with Recession Buster offers on floor displays, Gondola ends and on-shelf. Everywhere you look there are deals: bogofs; twin & banded packs; half-prices; value loaders; extra fills.  Heaven for the promiscuous branded shopper. It’s just an impression while they have upped the ante in Freshly Prepared produce,  it seems to me that Dunnes may have pulled back from ambient own label as there doesn’t seem to be as much PL presence on-shelf. A very well stocked, very clean store with lots of choice. Easy to navigate the particular categories, but more than two trollies passing in an aisle coupled with the ubiquitous Pallet blocking the floor results in Jousting with your fellow shoppers. Friendly helpful staff. I haven’t done the math yet, but my perception is that their Value Card is, cent for cent, better value than their competitors.


Tesco, Ballybrack.

The occasional foray into Tesco Ballybrack (where my wife’s environmentally expensive shopping bags were once purloined by a fellow shopper from her trolley which she left unattended while at the meat counter) is, I admit, mainly driven by their weekly insert in the Irish Times and I have been dispatched to purchase selected items from same and may as well do the big shop while I’m there. Several times I have had to search out and be directed to the offers which are poorly flagged – twin-packs that aren’t twin-packs – that allegedly are when they’re scanned and the like. Several times the Staff were unable to find the offers we wanted and several times I have gotton a full refund because the epos didn’t scan the offers that were found. So maybe not much communication between branch and head office then. There is not as much choice as I expected and there is a lot of dumbing down on the shelves with sub-value and sub-sub-value lines dominating the facings. Good bread counter and well stocked wine shelves which appear to be drawing the punters. Not completely convinced they’re cheaper than Dunnes but am impressed with the very slick and sophisticated Monthly Club Card Mailer.


Superquinn, Blackrock

My expectations were high. I knew they’d be more expensive though I hoped the experience would compensate. You fall into the Bakery, still a great psychological booster for all things natural and fresh. Fruit and veg follows, not as big or as wide a stock but good quality nevertheless. Approachable and well stocked meat and fish counters. Very long aisles, cluttered shelves with not a lot of offers either, though the new “Essentials” range is very much present. It is immediately obviously that it is more expensive than its competitors, I’d reckon at least 5% -10% even on basics like tinned veg and dairy. Petfood too. The wine sale was on so I can’t be sure whether that department is good but it was sure well stocked. Surly counter staff. Does not justify a premium.


PS: Both Dunnes and Tesco rate a B on my score card across the board. Superquinn, based on just one visit mind rates a C-, unfortunately in my book the SuperQuinn of Feargal Quinn is no more. Overall, it strikes me that the stores themselves need to do more to drive loyalty to their own particular bricks and mortar brands than rely on deals or offers squeezed from manufacturers and distributors.


PPS: An aside: it really irks me out that the stores reduce their staff packers’ overhead on a charity pretext and let young well meaning amateurs throw potatoes on top of soft fruit, pack detergents with fish and throw tin cans on top of bread. Am I alone?


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