Grocery should learn from the travel trade and avoid bucket-shop tactics that damage brands, says Stephen Fox

What a pity that grocers have succumbed to the temptation to compete with discounters. Not only does the gutter brawl damage premium brand value, it is also based on the assumption that you have to pander to consumer perceptions. You don't. You need to challenge them.

By communicating how much value-for-money, quality and service they offer, retailers can prove that discount stores do not actually give better value.

Consumers are just misled into getting what they pay for at discount stores. Take tinned tomatoes. At Waitrose the tin is full of high-quality product. A tin from a discounter, however, tends to be full of thin red mush. Similarly, Chablis at M&S is a credit to the Chablis brand, whereas Chablis from a discount store, in my view, disgraces the famous label.

Savings in discounters are exaggerated and not worth the culture shock of poor surroundings and service. Just because there's a recession doesn't mean shopping has to be a bad experience - shoppers will always appreciate good service. They will also continue to demand premum brands.

Reducing the number of brands erodes consumer trust. It also threatens their future just when they could be coming into their own as is happening in the travel trade at the moment. Many people want to fly on an economy airline but no-one wants to use one that might go bust and leave you stranded, or use a bucket-shop holiday package firm with the same result. Travellers want the reassurance of strong travel brands.

These days, travel agents are less likely to go down the discount route as a result. Consumers are sticking with brands they trust.

Everyone is pulling in the same direction, which helps. But the grocery industry could take a leaf out of the same book. Quality retailers should not be ditching the very brands consumers trust. Premium brands, meanwhile, need to capitalise on the values that made them respected in the first place.

They need to work together to change consumer perceptions of value, because it's a long, slow climb back from the gutter.

Stephen Fox is MD of Fox Kalomaski.