Asda

The Christmas advert….

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The ‘big’ Christmas advert is now well established as a part of the festivities, the big stores all now try to out do each other. Last years winner was without doubt the Bear and Hare advert done by John Lewis. I don’t have a problem with the concept of doing festive big adverts, they can add to the festive feel.

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Normally they are fairly predictable and involve snow, party scenes and various celebrities – you can normally guess the store by the celebs they use, every so often we get a weird or wonderful advert. John Lewis seem to fill this quite well, last years was lovely and cute (so I am told), this years with the penguin is just plain weird to me – but harmless.

Last night I saw the Sainsbury’s advert, and I have to say I thought it was poorly judged. If you haven’t seen it yet this links to it. Now they have done ‘the right thing’ and it is in conjunction with the British Legion and raises funds for them – which is good.

My issue is with the subject matter, yes there was a Christmas truce in the first year of the First World War, and it is something special. But is it really the right thing to use the bloodiest war in history to sell a retailer? I don’t thinks so, to me it feels wrong and just badly judged, Sainsbury’s are using the 100 year anniversary for the wrong reason. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is as more people see it…..

Why are we so against change?

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It seems that whatever we try to do in this country to ‘move forward’ we always come up against people who are ‘anti’. At the larger end of the scale it might be HS2 or wind farms off the coast, at the local level it could be new development – and this is the drive behind this blog….

Screen-Shot-2014-05-31-at-19.06.44-1024x457I live in West Bridgford, it is a very pleasant suburb of Nottingham and has been voted (as part of Rushcliffe) as one of the more desirable places to live in the UK – all good news so far. It also has a very busy and successful retail area based around Central Avenue. This area has seen significant changes in the last few years, a number of restaurants and bars have opened and it is now somewhere that attracts out of area dinners and drinkers. This is positive in my view as it brings money into the town.

There is however an element of the local (and not so local?) population who are quite vocal about not wanting change, this manifested itself most vocally a few years ago when M&S were looking to open in the town. Much was said against them, but they got planning and are now a well used and dare I say it popular addition (even from those anti initially?) to the town.

Moving forward a few years to today we have the issue of the two new retail units behind the Halifax on Central Avenue – a piece of almost invisible land which added nothing to the area, but was next to the croquet green (as the area of grass between Central Avenue and the car-park is known). The planning application for this has just been approved (quite rightly in my view). But it has caused huge bad feeling and comment – particularly from those who love the farmers market that uses the croquet lawn a couple of times a month.

All I would say to those opposed to the development is think long term, the market could move on and is in real terms a minor addition to the life of the town centre. Traders who take a formal lease on a shop unit are committing long term to the town and have a vested interest in its success. Yes, we potentially have an issue over tenant mix in the town (as most towns do) with too many charity shops and numerous coffee shops and the like. But who causes the demand for these operators? The market as a whole, in effect those who are against the development in the first place!

Perhaps it is time for the country as a whole to have a good hard look at itself and accept that we cause the changes in the market – so we can’t (and shouldn’t) complain when development occurs, especially when it is small and local as in the case of this one. Time to deal with our ‘not in my back yard’ issues……

“Ugly fruit and veg” – you can tell the difference!

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My wife is a big fan of the ‘delivery box’ type of veg and meat services – she uses Abel & Cole – I like the fact that we get real strange shaped vegetables and fruit, and muddy potatoes – rather than the usual scrubbed and perfectly shaped veg from the supermarkets. It makes me feel as if we are getting real produce, and the claim is that it tastes better. Yes it costs a little more, but can you tell the difference – or more to the point is it worth it?

MFB_XLTruth be known I have always been a bit of a sceptic, but have gone along with it! But I can now honestly say that the difference is significant! When I am in my ‘losing weight mode’ (rather more necessary these days) I tend to have carrot and cucumber to nibble at lunchtime (normally with houmus) as part of my pack up. Having been on Abel and Cole carrots for a while I have got used to a certain taste – until this week when due to a pre Christmas ‘fill in’ shop, we had Sainsbury’s carrots. And the difference is amazing – there is literally no taste to the Sainsbury’s carrots – they are just bland! First strike to ugly veg!

Also we had supermarket chicken in a curry last night (normally we have had Abel & Coles) again it was tasteless and tough! Strike 2! I could go on, the comparisons are endless and all go one way.

So I can hand on heart confirm that the difference is there and I recommend getting “real veg, fruit and meat” – which is what we all used to do in this country before the rise of the supermarkets. Time to rebel against them perhaps?

Trying to find a positive spin?

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It was pointed out to me a few weeks ago that blogging ‘negative’ stories was not such a good idea (thanks John), perhaps that is true, and if I am honest I do try not to go into ‘grumpy old man mode’ if I can help it – but sometimes I just can’t help it!

So in an effort to put a positive spin on something that drives me to the verge of insanity please read on;

photo-9Morrison’s self scanning tills – one of life’s more trying experiences! I have blogged about them before (so won’t say anymore). A recent visit confirmed my previous experiences and I do wonder just how much trade this loses Morrison’s – particularly from the casual ‘small purchase’ market. That is something only they can quantify, and if the lack of activity on improving their scanners is anything to go by they haven’t considered it!

However, after giving up on the self scan I went to a ‘real’ till with a young lady (showing my age here) who was both pleasant and swift. I mentioned to her my problems (with the scanners) and she said she hated them as well – but it did make me realise that it also protected her job – which is a good (and positive) thing.

There you go – not always grumpy after all!

Sainsbury’s – good for West Bridgford?

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Last night Rushcliffe Borough Council approved in principle Sainsbury’s planning application for their new store on Wilford Lane. To be honest there was little doubt that it would be approved – sadly that is the way of things. However, will it actually benefit anyone other than Sainsbury’s?

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I am not a fan of the supermarkets, I believe they have a lot to answer for – and have certainly helped our high streets to the sad state that they are now in. My home town of Malmesbury is currently a few months behind West Bridgford in this process – I can only hope that it doesn’t go the same way.

Sainsbury’s have stated that they believe the store will give more choice to West Bridgford shoppers (which it will), but it must have a negative effect on the town centre shops, so how can it be good for the town? Their official line?;

Sainsbury’s predicts the supermarket will benefit the economy and “complement” the smaller shops 1.25 miles (2km) away in the centre of West Bridgford.

West Bridgford is a very healthy suburb from a retailing point of view at the moment. Rents are strong and vacancies are minimal. Morrisons and Asda cover the town on either side and M&S simply food in the centre works well. Sainsbury’s just doesn’t sit well in this – especially when the Castle Marina store is less than 2 miles away as the crow flies!

So no, I don’t agree with the decision and hope that the Secretary of State kicks it out – sadly I don’t hold out much hope of this though!

Proof that hitting people ‘in the pocket’ works

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The supermarket plastic bag is one of the scourges of our time – they can be seen everywhere (literally) but are a strangely British issue. On the continent they were consigned to the pay to use corner of the checkout many years ago – consequently their use has fallen to almost zero over the channel.

20120722-213631.jpgProposals to ban or charge in the UK for bags is always met with cries of ‘it’s not fair’ – but in Wales they were brave enough to pass a law charging for the bags – and the result?

Supermarkets in Wales have reported reductions of up to 96% in the use of single-use plastic bags following the introduction of the 5p charge last October. The charge, which was introduced to cut waste, has also seen a big rise in the number of people using their own bags in shops and a surge in support for the scheme. The scheme covers all single-use bags, including paper ones.

Figures compiled by the British Retail Consortium show bag use at 13 retailers (including Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s) saw reductions of 70-96% for food retail, and 68-75% for fashion.

The number of Welsh people always taking their own bags to the supermarket rose from 42% before the charge to 64% after, according to a survey of 1,000 people by the Welsh government. The survey also showed support for the charge had risen since its introduction, with the number “strongly supporting” it rising from 35% before to 49% after.

Ireland introduced a plastic bag tax in 2002, Northern Ireland is set to bring in a 5p charge in 2013 and last month Scotland opened a consultation on a proposed minimum charge of 5p which, if adopted, would leave England as the only country in the UK without one.

Last week, new figures showed Welsh households recycle almost half their waste – putting the country well ahead of England, where the average recycling rate is around 40%.

Isn’t it time that we adopted this approach as well? Or are we just interested in longer opening hours?

Self checkout tills….

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The self checkout till has become a familiar part of our lives – the idea is that if you only have a few items to pay for it is quicker than going to a ‘normal till’. In reality it saves the supermarket or store paying for a member of staff to man the till, I can understand the theory, and if it keeps prices down that is fine.

What I have issue with however is the massive variation in the quality of these machines….

One of Morrison’s “finest”

Today I have been to Boots in the Victoria Centre, their tills are quick to scan, and generally work faultlessly – a totally pain-free experience and probably quicker than using a ‘manned’ till.

Sainsbury’s on Castle Marina is a similar experience, their tills are not totally fool-proof, sometimes there is an issue with the ‘is it in the bag’ routine. But generally it works fairly quickly.

So why have Morrison’s and Asda both got such appallingly poor systems? It would seem that wherever you go into one of their stores the self scan system is painfully slow, doesn’t recognise items going into the bag and nine times out of ten requires staff input to sort out an issue – and of course the staff member has at least 6 machines to manage so is always sorting out someone elses problem and not yours!

Talking to the staff in the stores (you tend to end up having a chat while they try to resolve the third or fourth error on your till) it is apparent that they hate them – being put on them as a supervisor is akin to the naughty step it would seem!

So this is a simple request to both firms – either sort out your systems or put more staff on the tills!

Rant over.