In November 2013, Sainsbury’s then commercial director and now CEO Mike Coupe told journalists the chain had a “reasonable” chance of success in its fight against Tesco’s Price Promise.
That “reasonable” chance related to a judicial review against the Advertising Standards Authority’s decision to clear ads for Price Promise. Sainsbury’s claimed the Price Promise ads did not take factors such as ethics and provenance into account.
After a High Court hearing last month, Sainsbury’s confirmed today Mr Justice Wilkie had not ruled in its favour.
His ruling will no doubt come as a blow to Sainsbury’s, but does the decision really matter now?
A lot has changed since Sainsbury’s lodged its initial complaint over the Tesco ad in early 2013.
Back then, Sainsbury’s was enjoying strong like-for-like sales growth and was the strongest performer of the big four supermarkets. Now, Sainsbury’s sales are in negative territory. On Wednesday, alongside the retailer’s interims, Coupe will unveil his strategic review designed to reverse that decline.
In 2013, Sainsbury’s was comparing the price of Tesco’s branded products in its own price-matching scheme Brand Match. Last month, it dropped Tesco from Brand Match and is now only giving shoppers vouchers if their branded shop was more expensive than Asda.
Last year, Tesco was the big competition for Sainsbury’s. Now it is Aldi and Lidl.
The discounters are currently calling the shots in the UK grocery market, but Sainsbury’s has got a real weapon to fight back with its own label products.
The judicial review was always more of a marketing exercise than a legal battle, but it’s not up to the ASA to spread the word about the quality of Sainsbury’s products. Sainsbury’s should be doing that – and doing it loud and clear to not only retain loyal shoppers, but to also tempt shoppers back from the discounters.
Commentators will be waiting to hear whether Coupe will cover marketing and advertising plans in his strategic update. As Aldi and Lidl have both shown - especially in recent weeks at the expense of the big four (including Sainsbury’s) - getting the message out there is key.
After all, shoppers are on the high street, not the High Court.