There continues sadly to be much dire news at present especially about the poor souls affected by the atrocities perpetrated in Middle Eastern civil wars and by Daesh in several countries elsewhere including tragically the shootings in Paris. However ordinary life in the UK and elsewhere around most of the world, goes on hence this blog post about the mundane sounding topic of supermarkets in GB.
The German newcomers to the British supermarket scene are Lidl and Aldi. Their style of selling mainly food and drink cheaply but not accompanying that with the Tesco of old mantra of piling high, has radically altered the basic supermarket shopping scene for locals including yours truly. However the Lidl and Aldi style currently appears to be that of selling their own brands at large discounts whereas many prefer brands that they have already tried and like. Recently the German discounters have moved into selling wine which may be interesting.
Tesco of course has had problems caused in part by its sheer size and the scale of its attempted expansion at home and abroad. Personally I have found the style of its shops locally most unattractive. There is an huge hyper-market style Tesco just out of town that mrs maytrees and myself do not now attend at for shopping at all though we used to.
Apart from the fact that the large Tesco seems designed almost exclusively for car users, the actual shopping experience there was not we thought very attractive. The local town centre Tesco is slightly better but the only food which I might occasionally go out of my way to buy there are bagels which perhaps because of the chain's Jewish origins are usually great. Overall Tescos has begun to appreciate the need to concentrate more on its customers and perhaps less on corporate expansion oversees. However whether this is a 'closing the stable door after the horse has bolted' remains to be seen.
Waitrose which is part of the John Lewis Group appears to have responded to the newcomers by emphasising its middle class image. Its stores are not too large and are well laid out although whether Wimbledon/Raynes Park really needs 3 such stores seems doubtful to me. A downside to this middle class image that I at least perceive, is that well laid out though its supermarkets may be the prices of many goods appear quite high. Of course there are exceptions and the group tends to try to tie shoppers in with its Waitrose card. A difficulty about that is that the other main GB supermarket chains such as Tesco and Sainsbury's have their own versions of such store cards.
In days of yore Tesco's as I recollect used Green Shield Stamps to tempt shoppers in whereas the other British chains turned up their noses at such extraneous attractions. Green Shield stamps died years ago but whether other supermarkets have dumbed down by using store cards and the like to encourage customer loyalty or whether prospective customers have collectively used their bargaining power to pressurise supermarket chains to offer them something extra in return for store loyalty is hard to say.
Lidl and Aldi to the best of my knowledge appear to have taken the view that such cards are not for them perhaps because they add to the overall costs. If so that was exactly the argument against offering Green Shield Stamps.
Asda and Sainsbury's appear to have spied the foreign competition quite early on though took time to react to it. Asda bought out Danish Netto UK discount stores in 2010 though that does not seem successfully to have fended of the German competition so far.
Sainsbury's in 2015 formed a partnership with Dansk to trial 15 new Netto stores and it will be interesting to see how they get on.
Mrs maytrees and I have found the local Sainsbury's rather more competitive than it used to be with some prices at least being held back. EG a spot check showed some decent grapes on sale in Sainsbury's substantially cheaper than those in the nearby Waitrose. On the other hand the recent talk of a possible t/o of Sainsbury's by a Mid East buyer (Quatar?) would if it had come to fruition driven some customers over to different supermarkets.
Interestingly there are rumours of Sainsbury's now looking at Argos as a way of competing with Amazon but meanwhile it has cut the number of its Nectar loyalty card points accumulated by shoppers on each purchase by c. 50% as indeed have other British supermarket chains on their store cards though the free newspaper still offered through the Waitrose card seems a good wheeze.
Overall my view is that supermarket shopping for ordinary buyers has become more competitive and less expensive thanks in part at least. to inroads made by some of our continental neighbours' food shops.