A lot of parallels have been drawn between the general election and the grocery sector. There’s been Lidl Man: the swing voter who’s rejected the establishment supermarkets in favour of UKIP, SNP and Plaid Cymru. We’ve learned a UKIP voter is more likely to be overweight. That Tory voters overindex on avocado.
And in the latest survey out this week it emerged that consumers found Hovis more appealing than Ed Miliband. If consumers only knew the turmoil in the bread market, and at Hovis in particular, we could have established which way the election would have gone just by looking at Nielsen, IRI numbers, et al.
We’ve even had some fun of our own, with a blog that seeks to link our (in some cases now former) political leaders with leading brands.
Yet, silly as some of these parallels unquestionably are, the key point - even with a surprise election victory for the Conservatives - is that there is as much uncertainty in grocery as there is in politics.
If recent Kantar figures had suggested an uptick in trading, the latest numbers from Sainsbury’s and Morrisons certainly didn’t make pretty reading, while Kantar’s latest read not only confirms the Easter holiday was a damp squib, but reminds us that - as with our lopsided economy - none of the challenges have gone away, however much the valuations of supermarkets have picked up.
Those valuations have been predicated on new leaders and new strategies. The City is expectant of a return to the norm. Yet just as the political parties have not factored an economic reversal into their budgets, this could be as good as it gets. And if our Big Interview with Aldi’s new CEO Matthew Barnes is anything to go by, the growth of the discounters looks like the new norm.
That’s why it’s so refreshing that Iceland has picked itself up, dusted itself down, and - calling a halt to the expansion of its Iceland store estate - backed itself to create a new format under the leadership of Malcolm Walker’s son Richard.
And Waitrose is evolving its myWaitrose promotional strategy in an intriguing new fashion.
Doing nothing is not an option. Nor is there any point wishing for the past to return. With continued fragmentation - politically and even more so in grocery - the best leaders will focus their energies on factors that are in their control.