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!

Christmas getting earlier and earlier!

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I am not a Christmas ‘Scrooge’ – far from it, but I do find the fact that we seem to start with the Christmas experience earlier and earlier now just plain wrong.

20120910-204305.jpgIt is much more of a retail holiday than a religious one which I find rather sad. Consequently it is now ‘expected’ that Christmas goods appear a couple of months before the big day – but the beginning of September?

I spotted these mince pies in Morrison’s yesterday – they are already a ‘special offer’ so presumably will be even more of a deal in December!

I am sure if I raised the issue with the store they would claim that mince pies were ‘just a fruit pie’ and can be had any time of the year.

But we know differently!

Time to act on single use bags in England?

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We are all guilty of using too many bags from the supermarkets when we do our shopping. Some reduction has been managed in England by the bags for life system – but it is only a drop in the ocean. However in Wales a charge on bags was levied last year and the first results of its effect are in – and its good news!

Look familiar?

Supermarkets in Wales are reporting a reduction in the use of ‘single use bags’ of up to 90%.

It is six months since a minimum 5p charge per bag was introduced, Sainsbury’s saw a 90% fall, the Co-op reported 86% and Morrison’s 60%.

In 2009, shoppers in Wales took home an estimated 350m carrier bags from the major supermarkets. The new figures suggest hundreds of millions fewer single use carrier bags could be handed out this year in supermarkets alone.

Supermarkets report that the introduction of the 5p charge has gone smoothly across all stores and did not result in the ‘anarchy’ that was predicted by some. This was probably due to strong publicity in the months prior to the change, but with the holiday season approaching and lots of English visiting is it not a good opportunity to educate us English as well?

Tesco in England reports that since 2006 it has reduced bag use by over 50% through clubcard loyalty incentives for customers bringing their own carriers – not a bad result. But in Wales this has risen to over 90% with the levy. This just goes to show that sometimes a big stick is required to get people to act!

So how about it? Time to act?

Tesco – true to form?

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As usual the novelty has worn off for Tesco and they have dumped the good work that they were doing with regards to green labeling. Apparently the other big supermarkets weren’t playing nicely – so that’s OK then?

20120202-201720.jpgBack in January 2007, Tesco’s chief executive, Sir Terry Leahy, promised “a revolution in green consumption” as the company pledged to put carbon labels on all 70,000 products. But it has now dropped its plan to label all its products with their carbon footprint, blaming the amount of work involved and other supermarkets for ‘failing to follow its lead’.

And this decision has been taken on the eve of a major report on high street retailers’ green programmes, Tesco also blamed “a minimum of several months’ work” to calculate the footprint of each product, the supermarket was only adding labels at the rate of 125 products a year!

The supermarket is phasing out the labels, but is still wanting to provide carbon information on products, although it has not specified how.

The ditching of the labels will come as a blow for the Carbon Trust, the previously government-funded body that created the label and advises businesses on cutting emissions. From April, the Trust will no longer receive government funding as part of the coalition government’s cuts, and will rely solely on private funding from its work with businesses.

It is not a total loss to the Carbon trust though, some companies are sticking with it. PepsiCo, which has foot printed packets of its Walkers crisps and Tropicana orange juice through the scheme, has said it will continue with the carbon footprint labels. Dyson, Kingsmill and Murphy Richards are the other three brands that work with the label.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) are about to release a report to show how much impact this scheme and others have has on the ‘green credentials’ of British retailers. It may well make interesting reading!

A good pitch is always a good pitch!

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It is interesting to note that even in these difficult times nearly all of the Woolworth stores that fell empty with the collapse of the retailer at the start of the current financial problems are now nearly all re-occupied.


This does give some hope for our town centres. The Portas report has highlighted the plight of our nations town centres and has come up with some interesting (and some blindingly obvious) suggestions. It remains to be seen which recommendations the Government take up from the report, sadly they will probably be the cheapest to carry out and not necessarily the best ones! But at least it is a move in the right direction – although I am a strong believer in the fact that it is the supermarkets who have killed our town centres more than any other thing – more on that next week.

However, the old adage, “location, location, location” is as true today as it has ever been, and it is good to see that most of the ‘woollies’ which were always well positioned in most town centres have found new tenants. Yes, most will be pound shops or similar (no one else will take these large units) but at least it keeps some activity in the good areas of the towns.

As we hear about the problems of some of our larger retailers over the last few weeks (Peacocks etc) spare a thought for the small independent shop – it is time to support the small local trader more than ever, this is the only thing that will enable our suburban and small town centres to survive – you have been warned!

Oops, almost lost us Ocado!

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I have blogged on here recently about our good experience of Ocado on their first delivery to us at home. Did I sing their praises too soon?

Not always this smiley!

Our second delivery was due this Saturday between 7.30 and 8.30, we had also included our Saturday evening meal in the order – possibly a bit rash, but on the assumption that they had delivered early last week we thought it would be OK.

However as 8.30 approached the natives (14 and 17) were getting restless, I am told I also get grumpy when I am hungry, so I was probably being unpleasant as well! We checked the website and it said that their GPS system (a new and wonderful service they are just rolling out) confirmed our driver would get to us between 8.10 and 8.30 – but it was 8.40! A decision was taken to abandon for chips which I collected (without any complaints).

After eating said chips we were 50 minutes after the latest delivery time, so a call to Ocado was in order – this was going to be make or break for them as far as I was concerned. How a company responds to a complaint matters – the customer is always right!

We got off to a good start – they were sorry and would call the driver and call me straight back, that’s good, as I don’t want to be kept waiting. The call came a few minutes later with an apology, a £10 ‘hassle’ voucher, and news that the driver would be with us by 9.30. And he was!

The driver was polite and sorry, but pragmatic. He told us that if he called everyone on his route when he was running late it would slow him further – a fair point. It also appeared that his route had not been planned as well as it could have been (the delivery before ours was for a later slot). He also thought the head office should be tasked with updating us – after all they track their vans so it would be easy.

I had to agree with him – if Ocado track their vehicles (quite common now) they could easily tell us if there was a delay. They do appear to be trying to do this via the website, but it’s not working. Perhaps a text would prove better – it’s more direct and almost ‘personal’ even if its machine generated.

So a close call for Ocado, but we will stick with them at the moment.

Retail apps – novelties or useful?

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I am the first to admit that I love tech – my iPhone has enabled me to take this to ‘new levels’ much to my wife’s amusement (or bemusement – not sure which).

Most of our large supermarkets and stores now offer apps for the most popular operating systems (iOS and Android), and most offer the ability to order through them. But is this really necessary, and are there better options for your phone!

As I blogged earlier this week, we ordered through Ocado last week (and very succesful it was too) – but we did this on the home pc, even though there is an Ocado app available. I have also this week had to hunt out a new shaver – my old one is dying, and as I am not taking part in Movember like some of my colleagues, I thought I should replace it before it dies. This then raised the question – how to find the best price?

I knew it was going to be a Braun, so initially I trawled the web on my PC, looking at the supermarket, electrical and similar sites – this took me maybe 30 minutes and I thought provided me with the best deal – Boots at £75. So off I went to Boots to have a look, but then I had a thought. Some time ago I downloaded the app RedLaser, this allows you to scan a product and it searches the web for the best deal (I have used it on ink cartridges before with some success). So I had a quick scan of the bar code on the box to check I was getting the best price (I thought it should be as it was 50% off) – but no; RedLaser gave me Debenhams at £67.50, with free delivery as well – result!

So perhaps the best use of the mobile web in retail terms is to price match, rather than to just make things easier for the supermarkets by giving them all your buying habits through their apps?

Sadly I do have to admit to having downloaded the Debenhams app to order the item – well it is fun isn’t it?

That’s great Sainsbury’s – but you should be doing this anyway!

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I am not a big fan of the large supermarket chains – I believe they are responsible for a lot of the problems our town centres currently have, plus they don’t add anything to our community. Despite what they might want you to believe they are net takers not givers.

On a regular basis one or other of the big supermarket chains will go on a campaign to show their green credentials or how they support the local community – Sainsbury’s are this weeks candidate, they have announced Initiatives under the “20 by 20 sustainability plan” that will include driving down energy use in supermarkets, doubling the amount of British food sold from the current £4bn a year, increasing sales of fairly traded products to £1bn and making sure suppliers of meat, poultry, eggs and dairy goods follow higher welfare standards.

The company is also pledging to create 50,000 new jobs by 2020, by which point it expects 20,000 members of Sainsbury’s staff will have reached 20 years’ service.

The company, which has 21 million customers and almost 1,000 stores, says it is the most ambitious and far-reaching programme ever announced in the industry – which it may well be – but I can’t help thinking that much of what they are suggesting they should have been doing for years to support UK farming and communities?