Tesco

“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!

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!

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.

Saving money but wasting food

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The supermarkets are always offering us special offers – they might be multi buys or just reduced prices (sadly the multi buy is more common). Saving money in the current economic climate is a good thing, and as long as we don’t buy things just because they are a bargain (which is of course what the supermarkets want) we end up saving money.

20120505-160938.jpgMy issue however is with the deals that save us money but require the purchase of more items than we really want to achieve the saving. As an example at my local COOP they sell fresh rolls and similar ‘bake up’ products – their crusty rolls and French bread are excellent. But, due to their special deal it actually saves me money to buy 3 rolls rather than the 2 I actually want – so one gets binned!

Is this the act of a socially responsible supermarket? (and they are not alone in this – others are just as bad).

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?

Convenience stores – heating and cooling

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We have a very good local store in my part of West Bridgford, I am not going to name it, but it is part of a large chain famous for its local stores. There has been a major refurb of the store in recent months and it now offers a very pleasant environment to shop in.

You get the idea....

As part of the refurbishment the fridge units have been replaced to the now very popular tall open fronted designs – great from the point of view of selling produce it would appear. But not good from another point – more on which below.

the fridge units occupy the entire rear wall of the shop and they have a return leg up one side, so they form a significant percentage of the walls of the shop. I am a regular visitor to the shop as it is great for those last minute items that you forget from the weekly shop. However, this weekend is the first vaugly warm weather since the refurbishment. On walking to the rear of the store I was amazed to find the air conditioning units in the ceiling pumping out hot air (it was warm outside). I assumed this must be a mistake and mentioned it to the manager.

His reply? “No I have to have it on, otherwise the fridges make it so cold down here that the shoppers complain”.

So here we have a totally refurbished shop from a chain that prides itself on being greener than most supermarkets and cooperating with the locals – but they have not considered the impact of the design of the shop on the green aspects. I hate to think how much electricity the airconditioner is using to heat the cooled corner of the shop.

A definite own goal – surely the shopfitters should be aware of these issues when they design stores?

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!