Last weekend in the FA Cup there was the usual talk about bog-like lower-league pitches being “a great leveller”. Top clubs don’t fancy having lumps kicked out of them on swampy pitches, so there’s more chance of a giantkilling.
The counter-argument, however, is that the pitch is the same for both teams and the classier outfit ought to cope better with difficult conditions.
In our sector, last month’s snow seems to have had wildly different outcomes for different retailers.
Tesco today unveiled Christmas results that you might call solid and steady, representing good progress for the overall business. And that’s exactly what Sir Terry Leahy did call them. On the other hand, you might consider UK like-for-like growth of 0.6% to be stodgier than old Christmas pudding.
Tesco explained the modest UK numbers by pointing to a relatively weak showing in non-food, which offset a supposedly barnstorming performance by the food business and Finest in particular. That failure to shift TVs and blue and white striped pyjamas was due, in turn, to the snow preventing shoppers from visiting Tesco’s larger stores.
But the snow was falling rather differently on Sainsbury’s. Justin King said yesterday that the bad weather meant folks ventured outside as rarely as possible – so they wanted to get everything they could from a visit to the supermarket, not just turkey, trimmings and plonk. This, he said, resulted in a strong performance from non-food. Curious.
And another paradox emerged today from The Co-op. It’s widely argued that the snow was good news for local c-stores, as shoppers kept their travelling to a minimum (similar to Tesco’s suggestion.) But The Co-op was pointing to its wide geographic spread – its tendency to have c-stores in rural outposts – leaving it over-exposed in the chilly weather. Again, curious.
Saturday’s edition of The Grocer will draw some conclusions from the Christmas contest. But ultimately the performances tell their own story. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When it snows well, you get the idea.
And when life gives you pork bellies, you stick them in baps, charge £3.99 for them and open a sandwich shop on Fleet Street. That’s what Sainsbury’s has done today, marking its debut as a sandwich chain with very little fanfare.
Did anyone see that coming?
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