Asda president Andy Bond’s claim that the grocery industry is guilty of “bland, amorphous sameness” has struck a chord with buyers.
The majority of buyers in The Grocer’s latest reader panel agreed, while 70% believed that suppliers were presenting insufficient new ideas.
“Grocers have ended up looking like clones, while brands have ended up doing the same thing everywhere as they are unwilling to choose which retailer is right for their brand,” said one buyer.
But many on the panel insisted that there was scope for retailers to differentiate. One said: “Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury seem to be able to offer innovation and inspiration to customers so I think the retailer has a big part to play.”
Manufacturers received a hammering from the buyers. One said: “All suppliers are looking inwards to what their lines can produce rather than at what the consumer needs, resulting in bland products, me-too innovation and repetition.”
Another said: “Often we
will agree a listing and support it with a strong promotion, only to be let down at launch by the supplier messing up availability.”
But other buyers admitted the fault lay with the retailer. “If you choose to only support the huge brands there is a danger of sameness,” said one buyer.
“If there is not enough NPD coming from the major brand owners then we must look further afield. There is a world of fabulous products if you are willing to look hard enough.”
However, a good relationship with a supplier can solve these problems, said one buyer: “You get first option on NPD and exclusives when you have a better relationship.”
The pressure is really on for a new product to perform well, said another. This, together with suppliers’ increased awareness of the cost of NPD, had resulted in a climate of caution and created barriers to innovation.
Another added: “All too often suppliers are loathe to share NPD for fear of the retailer copying their idea.”
But one buyer had a positive message: “Those retailers who try to inspire, with the help of brands, will win as long as they hit 100% availability and great value every day.”
Fiona McLelland
Reader Panel: Buyers