Sainsbury's is the oldest of the UK's big four supermarket groups. Once the king of British food retailers, the company began to lose its way in the late 1990s, toppled from the top spot by aggressive innovator Tesco. A succession of new managers attempted to restore Sainsbury's to health, but the store struggled to match the growth shown by more forward-thinking rivals. In 2003, Sainsbury's was overtaken as the UK's #2 supermarket chain as well by Asda, and, if anything, Sainsbury's troubles increased in 2004 following the disastrous introduction of a new stock control system. Despite a dreadful set of financial results, the group finally began to show signs of stability in 2005, as yet another new management team, this time led by former M&S executive Justin King, set about "making Sainsbury's great again". Progress after that was slow, but reasonably steady, and Sainsbury's finally regained the #2 position ahead of Asda at the end of 2015. Building on that renewed strength it announced plans to acquire general retailer Argos (and its furniture retail division Habitat) in 2016. Even more unexpected, was a deal announced in 2018 for Sainsbury's to take control of arch-rival Asda as well in a deal worth around £7bn. After a year of scrutiny, the merger was blocked by competition regulators in April 2019. Sainsbury's retains its lead over Asda, and added further heft to its customer management strategy with a full buyout in 2018 of Nectar, the rewards programme in which it had previously been a minority shareholder. Mike Coupe passed over the role of CEO in summer 2020 to former Boots manager Simon Roberts. As of March 2021, Sainsbury's comprised 598 supermarkets and 813 convenience stores. Although stores are spread throughout the country, Sainsbury's is traditionally strongest in London and the South of England. Of Sainsbury's 30,000 grocery products including fresh produce, around half are own brand, under the overall banner of "by Sainsbury's" or "Taste the Difference". It was the first supermarket to introduce branded own-label products back in the 1960s, although it has since been overtaken by others, notably Tesco. It also sells a wide selection of general merchandise including apparel, much under own-label Tu. Revenues have been flat for three years. For the year to Mar 2021, despite the benefit of surging Covid-related shopping, net revenues remained more or less unchanged at £29.0bn. Increases in grocery sales and Argos ecommerce were offset by declines in Sainsbury's general merchandise and fuel. Groceries accounted for gross sales of £21.1bn, general merchandise for £6.9bn, fuel for £3.0bn and apparel for £0.9bn. The group reported a net loss of £261m as a restructuring and impairment costs, mostly associated with the closure of freestanding Argos and Habitat stores.
Capsule checked 8th January 2020
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Adbrands Daily Update 16th Nov 2020: "Helping Everyone Eat Better". Wieden & Kennedy London continues to break the mould in its excellent advertising for UK supermarket Sainsbury's. Here it combines its Sainsbury's trademark style of blended colour and monochrome with humour, an unsual angle on food photography, environmental activism and even Stephen Fry. And all in the space of 60 seconds. Truly no other groceries retailer on earth has advertising quite like this. Top notch.
Marketer Moves 10th May 2021: New commercial director at Sainsbury's. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 16th Nov 2020: "Perfect Portions". British supermarket Sainsbury's has opted this year to forgo the one-off Christmas blockbuster in favour of three lower-key films from Wieden & Kennedy London that celebrate what is perhaps the central feature of the holiday season: family reunions. The two released so far are both beautifully realised, combining recreated retro home video with audio of a modern day phone call between family members looking forward to the big day. The second spot carries an additional emotional depth-charge. Subtly but powerfully, it acknowledges the fact that many families - after such a difficult year, more families than would normally be the case - will have one or more empty chairs at the Christmas table for the first time.
Adbrands Daily Update 28th May 2020: "Thank You". It's the mark of a great agency that they can take a now-familiar lockdown concept and give it new life and value. Lots of companies have been saying thank you to staff who have worked through the lockdown, but none has made that task as entertaining as Wieden & Kennedy London's playful film for Sainsbury's. Objectively speaking, it's the least promising of ad briefs - employee communications are designed by their very nature for employees not the wider public - but W&K really make that simple statement of thanks shine so we can all appreciate the hard work and dedication that lies behind it.
Adbrands Daily Update 31st Mar 2020: UK supermarkets are one of the few market sectors enjoying boom trading under lockdown, although there are also significantly higher costs associated with managing staffing and the supply chain. According to latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel, grocery sales during March reached their highest ever level of £10.8bn in just four weeks, with all ten chains enjoying significant year-on-year lifts in till roll ranging from 4.6% at Morrisons to 17.6% at Lidl. As that range suggests, the rate of growth has been very mixed, with discounters Lidl and Aldi enjoying by far the biggest surges. Aldi achieved a new record market share of 8.2% while Lidl was at 6.1%. Market leader Tesco, on the other hand, also enjoyed a significant uplift in till roll and remains more than 10 points ahead of closest rival Sainsbury's, but its share of the market slipped to a new multi-year low of 26.8%. The convenience store sector has also done well out of the shopping surge, with some customers choosing to avoid the longer queues found at big supermarkets. However, these smaller outlets also face a greater risk of staffing shortages if infection rates grow. The Co-op has already closed ten of its 2,500 stores and is considering closure of 60 more. Chief executive Steve Murrells told ThisIsMoney "As lockdown really takes hold, there most definitely will be areas [where we have to close stores]. This could either be due to self-isolation of colleagues, or where customers just aren't using a store. What's critical is that we get replacement labour and help to keep other stores open and keep the country going through this."
Adbrands Daily Update 12th Nov 2019: "Nicholas The Sweep". Sainsbury's has gradually taken up second place behind John Lewis for delivering a show-stopping Christmas ad. The rivalry between the two retailers - and their respective agencies Wieden & Kennedy London and Adam&Eve DDB - is palpable. All the more so since the impact of last year's Sainsbury's school pageant spot was blunted by a similarly themed ad from John Lewis and Waitrose, released just a couple of weeks before. All those months of hard work by Sainsbury's and W&K in vain. No chance of that this year, with the early release of a splendid mock-Dickensian epic that leans heavily on the retailer's historical legend but has plenty of time for in-jokes and ironic humour. Did we spot a Monty Python & The Holy Grail reference? ("Burn the Witch!"). And a top-and-tail voiceover from none other than Logan Roy himself... It's enormous fun, despite a slightly soppy denouement, which aims to suggest that it was Mary Sainsbury herself who helped to create the legend of Santa Claus. Still, if you can't have a bit of soppy at Christmas, when can you?
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