For too long, supermarkets have held unbridled power over brands. But with freshly released Kantar share data showing 75% of the big four are struggling to hold on to market share, are we finally witnessing the start of an erosion of supermarket hegemony?
The irony of this power dynamic is that supermarkets rely on brands to do a significant proportion of their marketing for them. Brands need to claim this power for themselves. They are so used to playing second fiddle to supermarkets that it sometimes feels they are more focused on keeping the supermarkets sweet than they are on prioritising consumers. But if brands centred their efforts more on the consumer, they could use our brave new e-world to sell direct.
With shoppers shunning physical stores in favour of buying online, fmcg brands have a compelling reason to club together and question supermarket supremacy. Conscientious consumers, jaded by the self-serving antics of Tesco, Primark and Amazon, are keen to investigate new socially responsible ways of shopping. In fact, just recently fish wholesalers commented on the BBC that they were seeing a sharp increase in sales to high-street fishmongers. In today’s e-commerce landscape, could brands argue that the supermarkets’ role is being demoted to humble supplier of shelf space?
Supermarkets are obsessed with price to the point of convergence. This gradual homogenisation is beginning to diminish the USPs that draw in consumers. Such big, brash low-price choice is not enough of an attraction.
The key to redressing the supermarket versus brand power imbalance lies in inter-brand collaboration. By uniting and working with trade associations, brands could potentially develop a universal e-commerce platform that places at its heart consumer convenience and the desire for independence.
If brands unite, they have a good chance of equalising the supermarket vs brand power dynamic. Collective action could not only emancipate brands, it would also give supermarkets a chance to reappraise their relationship with consumers.
George Smart is founder of integrated creative agency Theobald Fox