Customer service takes a backseat as retailers focus on price-cutting
Sainsbury’s Preliminary Results for the 52 weeks to 12 March 2016 show underlying profit and earnings per share are down this year versus last year.
Underlying Group sales were down on the previous year down from £26,122m to £25,829m. The next quarter, in particular, may show a further decline as Sainsbury’s takes some risks. CEO Mike Coupe says “The market is competitive, and it will remain so for the foreseeable future. We believe we have the right strategy in place and are taking the right decisions to achieve our vision to be the most trusted retailer where people love to work and shop.”
But is Sainsbury’s making the right decisions? Tesco PLC’s Preliminary Results 2015/16 showed positive and improving like-for-like sales growth trends in all regions whereas Sainsbury’s showed a drop for the second year running so where does that leave Sainsbury’s? It achieved £225 million (2014/15: £140 million) of operational cost savings but has this backfired? Nectar points were halved in April of last year and in April this year it ended its “Brand Match” scheme, a move seen by customers as sneaky. Sainsbury’s said it was to concentrate on lowering prices but why it can’t still match prices at the same time so customers can be sure of cheaper prices remains a mystery. Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow – consumer blogger and author of “How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!” – says that customers want honesty, transparency and for supermarkets to listen and act and Sainsbury’s doesn’t appear to be doing this of late.
“Firstly reducing Nectar loyalty points in 2015 and abolishing Brand Match in 2016, customers may well be forgiven for thinking that Sainsbury’s is chasing profits through taking away benefits and not on its customers, who will ultimately bring in those profits. How it can say it is listening to customers when no customer I know said “please take away the benefits for being loyal” or “take away the Brand Match I will trust that your prices are low with no evidence” is beyond me.”
It would appear Coupe, may be following much maligned ex-Tesco CEO Phillip Clarke’s business model, with knee jerk reactions, not listening to customers and land grabbing (Argos/Home Retail Group acquisition). Coupe’s predecessor, Justin King, was known for listening to staff and customers and whilst Coupe may want to be putting his own stamp on Sainsbury’s it comes at a risk. Dave Lewis, the current Tesco CEO, has sold off Clarke’s expansion acquisitions and curtailed overseas plans. He has listened to customers, leading on food waste initiatives and getting rid of misleading deals. Whilst still having problems, such as the possible misleading of customers with fake farm names, Tesco appears to be going in the right direction, recently reporting figures that put them back in the black. However, Coupe may be following Clarke’s path in more than one way.