Almost since the birth of the supermarket, the gondola end has been part of the furniture of fixtures and fittings, driving volume among busy shoppers for promoted items and encouraging welcome trial of new products.

With the advent of HFSS, I predicted in 2022 that it spelt the beginning of the end for the gondola end, as so many of the most lucrative brands were now barred from using them. And I envisaged that it would be replaced in importance by the Power Aisle. Sure enough, we’ve seen lots of in-aisle innovation.

What I did not envisage was that gondola ends would simply be replaced… by TV screens. But that’s what’s happening. Last March, Tesco had 400 TV screens in its stores. In November the figure was 1,800. By the end of 2024 there’ll be 6,000.

On the one hand, it’s a neat trick to skirt the HFSS ban. The regulations were designed to prevent supermarkets from placing HFSS products on aisle-ends. But they cannot stop digital ads for HFSS products at the end of supermarket aisles.


Read more:


On the other hand, it also speaks to the wider global rise of retail media (including markets where there are no such restrictions) with the screens forming part of an advertising landgrab that sucks more money out of broadcast media and into the store. In fact, new research cited at Tesco’s IGD supplier conference this week (p6) suggests the value of retail media (currently at $60bn) will overtake TV by the end of 2025.

Hence Sainsbury’s doubling the number of in-store screens (albeit only to 800), while rival grocers (even the discounters) look to play catch up in digital (p7) and retail media.

But it’s also going to pose challenges for some suppliers. What about those without big media budgets, those without access to their own creative teams, those with middle-of-the-road products that sell in vast volumes but don’t lend themselves to such ads? Tesco et al also have to walk a tightrope in their relationship with shoppers. As much as some will absolutely love the thought of scanners that buzz them with special offers for Nescafé when they get towards the coffee aisle, they are a Big Brother nightmare for others.