Friday, August 10, 2007

The Supermarket Myth

a supermarket trolleyWhile we are on the subject of myths, have you considered the myth that you can do all your shopping under one roof in a supermarket? Have you noticed how, now and again, a product just disappears off the shelves for no apparent reason. If you ask all you get is “if it’s not on the shelves we don’t sell it”. Eh, but it was there last week. A far cry from the slogan “If I haven’t got it, I can get it…and quick” at my old local Builders Merchants, Jessops of East Ham.
What they rely on is the customer choosing an alternative, because people are so busy nowadays they haven’t got the time to go somewhere else. So, what happens? Some bright spark up in head office notices that sales are going up on the alternative so [s]he orders more of that and forgets about what you really wanted in the first place.
And what happens when it’s a specialist product for which there is no alternative? I’m talking about products for those who have allergies for eg. Often the “alternative” is unsuitable.

Supermarkets are not responsive to consumer demand, they respond to consumer behaviour and till receipts. Remember that next time something you want has disappeared from the shelves.

The truth is that no supermarket is able to physically stock every item. So they stock those items that sell the most and try to convince you that is what you want.


  1. Yes, indeed - an infuriating practice! Until recently I purchased a particular brand of drinking chocolate in Sainsburys in 500gm packs. Suddenly it ceased to be on display, and only 250gm packs were available. The costs were (about) £1.29 for the smaller quantity and £1.59 for double the amount.

    I inquired on line about availability and got no reply. So when next in a store I inquired at customer services to be told that it had been discontinued. Having seen the larger pack that same week in two other supermarkets I therefore asked "If it is discontinued, then why is it on regular sale in Tesco and Waitrose?"

    The only response was a shrugging of shoulders and raising of eyebrows!

  2. Would that be "Fair Trade" Drinking Chocolate, Morris?

  3. qcihkMy local Sainsburys in Romford is particularly bad. When I decide to cook something adventurous there is always an ingredient I need that is missing, usually the coriander. But I suspect yours may be worse as I often bump into friends from Redbridge in the Romford branch.

    Having said that, it is still a great improvement on my Mum's experience of trecking all around the local village shops with two young children, to buy the weekly shopping. That used to take all day and you could only get standard meat and veg - fat chance of coriander in those times, and you had to go to a restaurant if you wanted a pizza.

  4. Yes, Roger but in those days it was due to a shortage of the product itself, not because some twonk has decided it's "not worth" stocking.

  5. I strongly believe in supporting local businesses where possible. May I recommend KDS in Beehive Lane for white goods? Their prices are better than John Lewis (yes, really), their service is first class, and their staff stay with them for years, so they really get to know their regular customers.

    And I have absolutely no financial or other interest in the shop!

  6. Judith,
    There are lots of local shops like this one, but as community suffers so does the grapevine and recommendation.

  7. Perhaps we could have an area on this blog for people to note their favourite non-chain/supermarket local shops, and to say why they continue to use them?

  8. Judith
    I'll have a think about the logistics.

  9. Do you know something, my favourite green-grocer is my allotment, the produce is fresh and seasonal, mouth-wateringly delicious, wonderfully healthy and I'm really looking forward to the mainly vegetarian meal that will arrive on the table this evening.
    On the down-side some of my appallingly disfunctional Councillors want me to give it up.
    Guess who will not get my support at the next national/local elections.

  10. pro bono publico9:04 am, August 13, 2007

    I think dgs is being a little unfair on the councillors for the ward where he lives. One has had his membership of the tory group suspended for daring to be consistently honest, and another has openly voiced her opposition to the sale of allotments. The only people not listening to the public are the 10 cabinet members; one of those does not even live in Redbridge.