Sainsbury’s chief executive, Justin King, has spoken of how the British grocery sector is going ‘Back to the Future’ by responding to changing consumer needs with a return to old-fashioned values as well as innovation.
Addressing the annual City Food Lecture at the Guildhall in London, King said: “Much has changed over the last few decades. Austerity measures have influenced the behaviour of households and we have seen the return of what we term the “savvy” shopper who manages their weekly and monthly household budgets carefully.
“Shopping little and often, making lists, cooking more, wasting less and often shopping locally, just like our parents and grandparents used to do. We are seeing coupon usage increasing too. Even the most well-off shopper wants to get a bargain and doesn’t mind who knows it.
“However, at the same time, customers have not neglected their values. They want to buy products that offer value for money, quality and high ethical standards. We are seeing more shopping on foot and this helps consumers to re-connect with their communities.
“So, yes we are seeing a return to some old-fashioned shopping and retailers are tapping into this investing in skills, service and jobs, building stores more locally.
“But this time it’s different – ‘Back to the future’ if you like. Loyalty cards, smartphones, and the internet enable us to have a more personal relationship than perhaps has existed for a generation.
“Home deliveries are not always convenient when everyone in the household is working, so we provide evening delivery slots and ‘click & collect’.
“There is a return to the community but sometimes, especially for younger people, ‘community’ can be a virtual one via social media, as well as the physical bricks and mortar presence in their town. And online can be more democratic, as well as being very convenient for the elderly, the housebound or those with busy lives.
“So, we are not simply retracing our steps. We are doing it differently and, in my view, better. It’s a future that can look bright. The high street has a great future provided it responds to what consumers and society want.”