Blog: Katy AskewWhy I'm sick of range reviews

Katy Askew | 3 December 2015

As the UK supermarket wars rumble on, range reviews have been a key tool for the big four to work to lower prices. And I don't like it one bit. Here is why.

Fewer products with a higher turnover should boost sales per square foot. Improved productivity can be fed back into lowering prices, allowing the supermarkets to compete more effectively with the discounters on price. Or so the argument goes. But this isn't a sustainable model and – as a consumer – I am finding it increasingly annoying.

I'm going to use myself as a case study to demonstrate why continuous range reduction is stupid. Names have been changed to protect the identities of those herein.

I used to be a loyal 'Supermarket X' shopper. The store is within walking distance of my house, which is nice. Online was also convenient for bigger baskets. And it had everything I wanted to buy. It often sold bruised soft fruit – which was a black mark against it. But otherwise I was fairly happy.

Then one day I happened to go into 'Discounter Y', which is also within walking distance of my house. And I found it has an absolutely fantastic fresh produce section. Sure, the price was better and that was great. But you know what? My fruit from Discounter Y wasn't bruised – and they actually had a wider variety. They were doing a better job with some of the fundamentals of retailing. At the end of my shop, I was left with a better product as well as a lower bill.

But I still continued to shop with Supermarket Y because the discounter does not carry all the products that I want to the quality I want them. I therefore found myself splitting my shop between the two.

And then range reduction kicked in. I can no longer buy onion bagels or refried beans without going to the next town over. They destocked tagliatelle. Tagliatelle! They don't carry sage or chives. When I asked the bakery department about the onion bagels (I thought they must simply be out of stock) the chap was very helpful. He said he couldn't understand it because they went off the shelves quickly enough but that the decision had been centrally made.

Supermarket Y completely failed to understand why I shopped with them. I shopped with them for their range and quality. The supermarkets will never be as cheap as the discounters, so why try and reinvent yourself as a poor imitation? Offer a wide range, excellent customer service and quality that consumers would be willing to pay more for. They will never win me back in fruit and veg. But give me an onion bagel and you'd get a share of my wallet.

Sectors: Retail

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