In a supermarket version of The Apprentice, Alan Sugar would have a whale of a time

Simon Massey
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Sugar would give supermarket bosses a stern reception (Source: Getty)
Imagine an Apprentice supermarket special - Alan Sugar, flanked by his experts, reviewing the practices of the big supermarkets each week.
“[Morrisons' soon-to-depart chief exec] Dalton Phillips, you took far too long to introduce smaller convenience stores, ecommerce and a delivery service. The other supermarkets have had these things for years. Honestly, man. What have you been doing with your time? You’re fired!”
Alan turns to Tesco’s Dave Lewis: “now then, Dave. I know you only just started, but it’s been a rough few months for you. You uncovered terrible accounting practices, a bloated, arrogant business and now you’ve been given a junk credit rating. I’m not an unreasonable man, but Tesco is in a bit of a state, isn’t it. Thank goodness you have a plan. I’m undecided about you, so for now you can stay until next week.”
Then the stars of the show enter the boardroom. “[Aldi bosses] Matthew Barnes and Roman Heini, you have clearly listened to consumers, watched the economic downturn closely, seen the squeeze on everyone’s pockets and responded admirably. Well done. You can stay for another week.”
It would be TV gold!
The thing I struggle to understand about supermarkets is their seeming lack of ability to listen to the consumer, to watch the world and respond to changing behaviours.
Is it that they’re such ginormous tankers they take an age to move, or have they just been so phenomenally successful in the past that they drank their own Kool Aid?
The world has embraced internet supermarket shopping - and no-one more so than the UK, so we expect very strong service and delivery in this area.
But counter to the trend of virtual living, we want human interaction, a desire to see, touch, feel, talk to and receive expertise. We want the convenience of finding everything in one massive warehouse, but also right next to our house when we need a pint of milk.
The most important thing, of course, is our purse: the crunch hit everyone hard and spending had to be reduced. Cue the sudden rises of Aldi and Lidl.
My local corner shop sold white bread and huge bottles of Coke when I moved to the area 10 years ago. As the area has gentrified, the same guy now makes much more of a margin from quinoa, spelt bread and coconut milk. How? He has a wipe board asking what’s missing. Simple, right?
Of course a lack of listening, pace and response is not confined to the supermarkets, there’s a list as long as our collective arms of retailers who didn’t watch, listen and learn.
This is a fast-paced, fast-changing world. Get a wipe board. If you can’t listen and keep up, you may well find yourself at the wrong end of Sugar’s
Finger of Doom...

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