There is nothing more indicative of a poor economy, lack of growth and a gloomy future than when the UK’s best loved supermarket retailer for the wealthy has to resort to launching a ‘budget’ food range for its customers. To me, this is a sure sign that the recession has hit us hard and in my opinion, I think the Government should be very worried!
For when a branded store that has built up a reputation on catering for the more affluent in our society, suddenly realises that perhaps even their customers are struggling to make ends meet, and are now searching for a bargain amongst the best before stickers, then we really are in deep do do. The problem is, it might come back and bite them as the whole point of shopping in Marks is that you want to get away from the ‘normal’ people who go into Tescos and fill their trollies with the blue and white value range.
You want to appear a little better off than people who have to account for every penny they spend. So I am wondering, who is this Simply M&S range aimed at? Is it to get new customers in through the doors and to compete with the likes of Tescos and Asda, or are they appealing to their own customers who by now are starting to feel a little bit of the pinch that we all are? And does the range of budget food actually compete with the other stores on price and quality?
The Simply M&S range will have around 500 items, all ranging from essentials such as milk, butter, eggs, beef mince, sausage rolls to whole chickens, and this amount is set to increase to 800 lines in the autumn of this year. The store has done away with its Wise Buys stickers, which were previously used to put on food items that were on special offer, and replaced them with the Simply M&S label. It is thought that the Simply M&S range will compete directly with the highly successful launch of the Waitrose Essentials range, which the supermarket unveiled in 2009.
And Tesco have revamped their Value range, now calling it Everyday Value which they have also taken a leaf out of the Waitrose book and made the packaging on their budget range more in keeping with the stylish Waitrose range. As for Asda and Sainsburys; Asda are overhauling their Chosen by You range to make it better quality and add more customer input, whilst Sainsburys are reported to be giving their bidget range a make over as well.
John Dixon, executive director of food at M&S said: “M&S customers come to us for great quality food they can trust – whether shopping for special occasions or for everyday eating. We will continue to focus on delivering this through innovation and newness and also offering great value. Simply M&S helps us to achieve just this – and increases choice for our customers across everyday food products.
It complements our existing ranges and highlights the superb quality and value of M&S Food under one clear brand.” But can Marks and Spencers cope with families coming in to do a normal weekly shop? Bryan Roberts, a retail analyst at Kantar, thinks not: “I think this new range will help shift the perception shoppers have that M&S is out of reach financially, or is somewhere that you go infrequently for treats. However, my reservation is that a lot of its stores are not cut out for a regular grocery shop.”
With advertising starting on 12th May, TV ads using the tagline “M&S quality now at prices you’ll love” will be shown all across the UK. Marks & Spencer hope that their new budget range will attract new and old customers to come in and complete their basic weekly shopping at their stores. But can we get past our mindset that M&S food is for treating ourselves only and not for a value range? I’m not sure, but then again, Waitrose managed it and the M&S team assure us that prices will be checked each week by BrandView to ensure that they remain competitive with rival supermarkets. Personally if it means getting M&S quality at lower prices then what’s not to like?