9 ways that the high street and small biz are being killed

killing the High StreetSupermarkets often get the blame for killing our high streets. But are they really to blame and if so are they the only reason? When I asked consumers what they thought was killing the high street and independent businesses, supermarkets weren’t top of the list.

1) People recognised high rents and rates as significant factors. Council rates can be so high that independent shops can’t afford to pay so independent businesses have to rely on Internet sales when they might well benefit from a presence on the high street as would shoppers.

2) Amazon. There’s  big killer for you. Businesses have to adapt and as they say it’s dog eat dog. A company receiving a lot of bad press recently about how they treat staff. Appallingly. Ridiculous targets etc. All helps keep prices low. Well the small businesses would like Amazon to treat their staff better and put the prices of stock back up to where they should be. Nowadays you have to sell your stuff there or not sell much at all. The upshot of this, particularly for books is that Amazon buy your products at a hugely discounted price they then undercut you so you are stuck with either reducing your prices to match or losing sales to Amazon which can afford to take really small margins. Small businesses are really hit by that because they are in a lose lose situation. Don’t go on Amazon lose sales, go on Amazon don’t make so many sales trough their own outlets.

3) Internet shopping. Nuff said

4) Large supermarkets out of towns mean that people go to the supermarket and do a big shop getting more groceries, but aren’t supermarkets saying that actually it’s the smaller convenience stores that are being used more? If so perhaps they are helping our towns? Although of course at the cost of the smaller independent shops. I read a while back about people complaining about a new Tesco store opening up in their town. A local grocer was complaining that it would take away business. What I found interesting though was a response from someone to his comment on the site. The comment was aimed at the complainer. The man said that his mother had opened a local florist many years ago, had built it up, was very proud of it and then this grocer started to do flowers and put her out of business. He had no sympathy for this grocer. Just goes to show that any one business is able to take advantage and put people out of business it’s just here that because it is a big chain that it gets more coverage? Not that I am sticking up for supermarkets (er obviously given this!) but there’s more to it than just putting your local grocer out of business.

5) Parking. Lack of it or cost. Councils making people pay to stay even a short time on the high street. That puts people off. (Although see here for appealing tickets and don’t forget you have ten minutes grace now!)

6) Apathy. People don’t care about supporting local businesses if they can save time and money elsewhere.

7) Lack of creativity. The few independent bookshops that have managed to survive (and seriously well done to them) have done so by branching out and selling other things such as craft from independent sellers and proving tea and coffee whilst you browse.

8) Opening hours. People are so busy these days they needs shops opening before 9.00am and after 5.30pm Big shopping malls take this business when people do it all in one go after work or on a Sunday.

9) Cafes, yes we want some but not every other shop!

So what to do?
A lot comes down to people supporting local businesses. That includes buying direct from the business and not through Amazon, but realistically this isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Consumers can look around though on other sites such as Facebook groups and find people selling on there. Supporting the self employed in this way can make all the difference to someone starting out.

Businesses on the local high street need to look at being creative and asking customers what they would like to see and be ready to change regularly.

Councils clearly need to reduce rents and rates if we are to see some innovation and unique shops back on our high streets. They need to limit the number of one type of shop on the high street to bring some variety.

SUPERMARKETS’ ‘MOST ANNOYING’ HABITS REVEALED

In the press today was an article to which I contributed about consumers pet hate regarding supermarkets. (Regular followers of this blog will know my history with Tesco!) It was actually about the tactics that supermarkets use to make us spend more so I have added a few more gripes too!

1) Moving products around so you spend longer in the store trying to find what you want
2) Lowest priced option often at the highest point so shorter people can’t reach
3) Online or in store exclusives. Creates a sense of immediacy when selecting products, so consumers will usually spend more than intended as feeling of missing out
4) Bumping the price up for an individual item e.g. £2.50, and offering them two for £4. When item is less than £2 elsewhere
5) Putting differing offers on variations of a product to confuse as to which is best buy
6) Mixing weight to price ratios on different products
7) Making it difficult to work out the best offer frequently with ready packaged fruit/veg portrayed as having discounts versus loose.
8) Offers such as 3 for £10 when you only wanted 1
9) Pumping out the smell of bread baking (Our Sainsbury’s does that!)
10) Slow music to make you move slower round the aisles
11) Loyalty cards using your shopping habits to provide targeted vouchers
12) High sugar higher priced brands items at eye level lowering this for aisles aimed at children
13) Putting deals at the entrance of the store such as biscuits – not very expensive items but ones that appeal and that you think that’s a good offer and throw them in the trolley
14) Putting fruit, vegetables and flowers at the front of the store. We know this is to create an atmosphere of health and also provide smells and pleasant imagery providing positive vibes to make us buy more. Annoying because these are the items that we want to put on top of the shopping not at the bottom where it is going to get crushed.
15) If you only want the essentials, such as bread, milk, fruit and vegetables they are placed as far away from each other as possible to make you travel round the store.
16) My big bug bear. Wine. So many bottles costed “normally” priced at £10 but frequently in the half price offers and often half price with 25% off 6 bottles or more. We wait until these regular offers come about. If we shop in more than one supermarket then the supermarket with the deal is going to get the most sales.
17) Packaging. Is that “Tesco finest” Sainsbury’s “Taste the difference” really better? In many tests and reviews this isn’t the case but are we conned into spending more because we are sucked into thinking they are better quality.
18) Self service checkouts (see a post about THEM here!) because they always go wrong and it isn’t self service it’s one sales assistant serving many customers
19) Queues!
20) Discontinuing products

We want consistency and fair pricing, everyone loves a bargain but not when the “bargains” are all the time so we actually feel that the rest of the time we are being conned!

We know that most of this goes on but unfortunately we can not do much about a lot of it. And the trouble is if we try and avoid it all, we spend even longer in there! Don’t go hungry and try and keep to your list are a good starting point though.

I was on Radio 5live Breakfast (and Radio Nottingham!)

 

What other things are your gripes about supermarkets and which is your top one?!

 

Are you supermarket loyal?

 

Supermarkets falling profits

There has been much discussion by retail analysts as to the reasons for profits of the supermarkets falling. Is it because the supermarkets have diversified too much and have forgotten what made them successful? Which companies have the best sited stores? It is probably a combination of many things. The public using more convenience stores and dropping the weekly shop and the irony of the likes of Tesco and Sainsburys developing these smaller stores in the first place?  The price wars between the big four and Lidl/Aldi. Are people doing a weekly shop for non-perishables and buying what they want to eat that evening on the way home from work?  Who understands the price matching thing anyway? Is it a Tesco finest pie versus a Sainsbury’s taste the difference pie? Is it Sainsbury’s taste the difference tomato versus Asda’s tomato? Then you have the all the confusing prices that annoy everyone. Which? has a petition you can sign regarding that one!

Loyalty cards
From 11th April Sainsbury’s reduce their loyalty points on their Nectar card. Sainsbury’s nectar turns sour. This move from Sainsburys may save them money in the short term but in the long term customers are less loyal than they ever were and we often know that companies frequently reward new customers and not existing customers and this is a very good example of that. All the loyalty cards have their confusions don’t they? X for purchases in stores, y on the credit card, z in other stores and they should be simplified!

At Christmas Sainsbury’s provided a “double up points” scheme that was limited to £20 per department and many staff didn’t even know what was in and what was out of the offer. (I know this because I experienced it and I vaguely remember sending them my opinions on their Christmas offer. £20 limit on toys for a family of 4 isn’t very helpful either. This sort of thing annoys customers greatly and for Sainsbury’s to increase their profits they need to be mindful of making thing more complicated for customers if they want to develop loyalty. In contrast, Tesco has the most developed reward scheme with the most frequent doubling up of value and range of items to spend points on. It also seems to have improved its voucher scheme having simplified the doubling up process so that you can spend across departments with no limit. They had to do something after I took Tesco to court over their clubcard fiasco perhaps?!

Morrisons has only just started a loyalty card. Late to the table with that one. I discussed their woes with Adam Parsons on wake Up To Money on Radio 5

Simple answer for all supermarkets?
Ask the customer what they want and give it to them. Develop a decent loyalty scheme that rewards customers, don’t  take away from exiting loyalty schemes, improve them. Surely that is obvious? Perhaps not to some CEOs. Customers have been saying for years just reduce the prices, stop all the annoying vouchers that customers have to fill their purses/wallets with, stop all the bogoffs and offers just reduce the prices, permanently. Despite the fact that this is a well-known hate of customers the supermarkets still continue the practice. Supermarkets need to set up a thorough programme of consultation running various meaningful projects not just ask for feedback from just existing customers. Perhaps it about time that supermarkets took on an “Every listen helps” slogan.

Are you loyal to a supermarket? Why? What should they do to improve your loyalty or get it in the first place? Is it just price or do they need to do more? What do you think of the price matching, deals, etc etc?!

Supermarkets Discontinue Products. WHY?

If you’ve come here for the answer, sorry don’t have it. Other than I assume they stop products in favour of ones that will make them more money?!

So, got to start with Tesco haven’t I? It’s like a given. Nah, this time I will start with Sainsbury’s because it has really really annoyed me. Look at these:
0000001066869_L0000001066418_L0000001065718_L0000001066517_L0000001066746_L Lovely looking cookies huh? See that space though? Triple chocolate cookies missing. Why would you stop that? Seriously. One biscuit with 369 calories in it has got to be good. They are all the same price so just sell the right number of each. Why discontinue? Foolish decision. Foolish. Foolish. Foolish.

 

Update – they are back well done Sainsbury’s!

Right, Tesco. So, in the last few months they have discontinued
1) The tea towels I buy (very daft when they match other items they still sell!?!)
2) Heinz reduced sugar and salt ketchup (why for crying out loud?)
3) 650g cherry tomatoes so you have to spend more on 300g packs
4) Cherry pie (The Bull is not happy about that)
5) Tesco finest cheese flatbread

Then a few people told me that Tesco Watford has forgotten it is a grocery store and is stocking more electrical, furniture and china. Also Tesco finest baked beans have been discontinued too! Someone said that Tesco had discontinued customer service….

So join me in my rant. What items do you like that supermarkets have discontinued? We shall direct them here!

Update – right, remember a few months ago Tesco was reported as stopping 30% of its products. Well I wrote to ole Dave and asked him about the reasoning and what products they were going to stop etc. Here’s his response “In a big superstore we have more than 25% of items that either don’t sell or a single unit a week and taking up space from the lines most people want and they leave disappointed. We are reducing this customers don’t want and increase space for things that they do.” So there you go, although I don’t believe that Tesco finest cheese flat bread didn’t sell.

Hurrah! Sainsbury’s have reinstated the triple chocolate cookie. Was it something I said?