Simpler, better, cheaper. These are the priorities for Somerfield&'s new management team as it looks to inject some life into the chain&'s like-for-like sales performance.
Suppliers attending a conference in Birmingham this week heard CEO Paul Mason outline a strategy that would see the business improve its range, price, availability, retail standards and cost base. He also pledged that Somerfield would strengthen its position as &'the&' local grocery store with initiatives such as offering better local products and services than rival chains and giving managers more autonomy.
New trading director Colin Smith told suppliers it would be targeting its price investment on a core range of 500 lines as it looked to narrow the gap with Asda and Tesco. Promotions have been halved as it plans to run better offers with deeper price cuts and clear themes. Price messages would be communicated through more impactful in-store merchandising.
The Grocer has already reported that Somerfield has been focusing on price, with more emphasis on the &'Makes Sense&' value range, efforts to get more in line on price on some KVIs and, earlier this month, new advertising to support its promotions, which account for 29% of sales. Smith said the new emphasis on Makes Sense had &"already had a halo effect on our price perception&" - even though it accounts for just 1.1% of sales.
He also outlined plans to bring fresh back up to a gold standard and boost its own label participation, while stressing that Somerfield would remain a supporter of brands.
The retailer&'s trading supremo reminded sup­pliers that Somerfield was reducing its range - with up to 15% of products being removed - as it looks to bring more clarity and simplicity to its offer.
And he urged suppliers to embrace the changes under way: &"Stores are going to be remerchandised, not only in terms of space but in terms of range. Be a part of it! This will happen very quickly.&"
Mason told the conference that Somerfield had been poor on availability but would be ruthless on this issue. Retail director John Cleland said the chain was aiming for 99.5% availability on its core range. It had introduced a new ­measure dubbed NOOSE (Never Out Of Stock Ever) to improve overall performance. He also outlined a raft of initiatives to improve the customer experience.
Suppliers at the conference were impressed by what they heard. One said: &"They have taken the basic issues facing Somerfield and are clear about what they can implement. There were some strong themes coming though from Tesco and Asda strategy, although that&'s not surprising given the leadership team.&"
Another said: &"We&'ve had a troubled history with Somerfield but Colin Smith is very hands on, and from what he is saying, it sounds very refreshing.&"
One delegate praised the fact that Somerfield&'s retail and buying were looking joined up. &"It seems to be synergistic at last,&" he said.
Another said: &"They have got some very clear objectives... But the proof will be making it happen in-store.&"
Mason told The Grocer: &"A strong and open partnership with all of our suppliers will be key to building a successful business.&"
Julian Hunt