But the supermarket, the number two chain for fish sales, said the theatre of counters would remain very important, despite loose fish accounting for only 22% of sales.
Said buyer Melanie Sachdeva: “We are working to make fish easy for customers, and have repackaged fish and sauce lines in Just Cook foil try concepts. Our premium lines also feature predominantly in prepacked ready-to-eat formats, including smoked salmon and terrines.
“But counters are about the scope of the total consumer offer and creating theatre in store. They are increasingly popular in contrast to the
decline of fishmongers. As people become more familiar with experimenting, fish counter popularity will rise. The importance of speaking directly to consumers cannot be underrated.”
Sainsbury is also looking at different types of refrigerated counter, including a model made by Dutch company Smeva. This is already in the ‘franchise’ stores run by Southwest Seafoods in Torquay, Paignton and Marsh Mills and will go into the revamped Balham store in April. “It has the advantage of being able to serve customers from the front, so improving the interaction with customers and yet still be a refrigerated case,” said Sachdeva. “Along with Waitrose, we are the only major multiple who buys refrigerated fish counters rather than relying on just an ice bed.”
The supermarket is also developing regionality within the UK. Said the buyer: “We have been supporting regionality in the south west. One of our suppliers, Interfish, can take advantage of local prices and fish availability for three stores including Marsh Mills in Plymouth and Torquay. The results in sales and customer satisfaction have been staggering.”