Sainsbury’s had a clear rationale for relaunching its value tier own-label range. As the cost of living crisis continues, it wanted to help shoppers find value on shelves. And what better way to do that than uniting all products under one clear banner?

The banner of choice is Stamford Street, which pays homage to Sainsbury’s former HQ in London’s Blackfriars. The initially 200-strong range, which includes products like soft spread, cheese tortellini and yoghurt, will gradually roll on to shelves between now and the autumn.

The seemingly simple change has caused some confusion, however. As some analysts and commentators have highlighted, it comes less than four years since the grocer ditched its Basics range, in favour of a suite of 12 tertiary brands (ironically including a frozen range with the Stamford Street label).

The echo of Tesco’s Exclusively at Tesco strategy was part of then-CEO Mike Coupe’s five-year vision for the supermarket.

Still, that five-year vision probably didn’t include a global pandemic, a land war in Europe, and a cost of living crisis. Four years is a lifetime ago for retailers. In the current climate, the business case for a more simplified range is clear.

Value-tier private label sales have soared 46% in the past year, according to IPLC’s latest Research Report. Against that backdrop, Sainsbury’s has clearly realised that “a retailer’s value private-label tier needs to stand out in store for easy recognition by the price-conscious customer,” says Paul Stainton of IPLC.

Sainsbury’s “fancy” style own brands like Mary Ann’s and Hubbard’s, although competitively priced, are “arguably difficult to identify in store as their pack designs do not stand out”, he adds.

Sainsbury’s has no doubt also been paying attention to the success of Asda’s Just Essentials range, which replaced its Smart Price value tier in May 2022. According to Asda, sales have grown 19% ahead of the market at times.

The consolidation then, seems like a good idea. The real question will be whether Sainsbury’s has got it right.

One of the reasons Asda’s Just Essentials has been such a success is because it clearly signifies value. Stamford Street, by contrast, is more subtle. While the simple orange and white blocks have echoes of the former Basics range, the name Stamford Street offers no clue as to its budget credentials – and only the most loyal shoppers would get the Sainsbury’s reference.

The more muted approach could all be part of the plan, suggested retail consultant and former Asda buyer Ged Futter in a LinkedIn post over the weekend. Asda’s Essential relaunch was arguably “too effective”, he said.

In September, the grocer had to introduce temporary purchase limits of three items per customer after the range proved so popular it struggled to keep up with demand.

“They had too many shoppers buying it and trading down, this is never good for a buyer’s P&L,” he wrote.

But regardless of branding, success will depend on how Stamford Street is priced. So far Sainsbury’s has shared little detail on that front, though it has confirmed that a quarter of products on the new range are included in its latest Aldi Price Match campaign.

A quick study of Assosia data and the Sainsbury’s website suggests it is offering significant discounts.

Sainsbury’s is currently listing a 300g pack of Stamford Street Co unsmoked bacon rashers for £1.45. The equivalent portion size in its Sainsbury’s range is £2.25. Likewise, a Stamford Street Co Cauliflower, at 75p, is currently 20p cheaper than the equivalent Aldi Price Matched ‘Sainsbury’s’ Cauliflower. A 140g pack of Stamford Street Cooked King Prawns is currently price matched to Aldi at £2.25. That’s compared with a 150g bag of Sainsbury’s large king prawns, currently on offer at £3.

None of this, of course, negates the prickly question of whether this will be enough to convince shoppers, who know they could get their whole shop cheaper at the discounters.

But Sainsbury’s has never traded primarily on value and, as Futter writes, “retailing is about optics”. When combined with Sainsbury’s wider campaign for value, Stamford Street could establish Sainsbury’s as a more price-focused retailer.