At the IGD convention last year, Rick Bendel confidently declared that the “phony price war” between supermarkets would soon be over.
The subsequent launch of Asda’s Price Guarantee in January has unquestionably been one of the biggest innovations of the past decade, but I would struggle to call it a ‘breakthrough’ because despite big bucks ads, tons of column inches, dark mutterings and the Double the Difference débâcle, Asda’s sales are hardly setting the world alight.
This week, it was Sainsbury’s turn to make confident predictions, as Mike Coupe declared that price was no longer a competitive advantage in grocery. Coupe’s assessment is based on the immediacy of price comparison websites, which have commoditised many retail markets.
His confidence in the future is based on Sainsbury’s launch this week of Brand Match, an enterprise that is either genuinely transformational or commercial suicide. With Asda rumoured to be launching a major new rollback initiative this weekend, I’m not sure the argument is finished yet.
But it’s certainly the start of a new chapter.