As part of my marketing training at Colgate-Palmolive I worked as a sales rep visiting Sydney supermarkets. The experience left me deeply scarred. Supermarket managers are people who have spent 10 years or more being bastardised by their superiors and by the time they reach the giddy heights they are ready to dish it out. Young sales reps are treated with arrogance and contempt.

I don’t need to tell you that a visit to a supermarket is a de-humanising experience. To this day I avoid the supermarket as much as I can, despite the obvious convenience of single stop shopping.

Supermarkets are not very innovative businesses. The last success in supermarket marketing happened when Woolworths clobbered the competition with the “Fresh Food” positioning in the 1980s.

I find myself shopping at boutique supermarkets these days; I drive past my closest supermarket to get to Fresh Provisions in Mount Lawley where the fruit/veg is better, where there is a quality selection of cheese, scrummy mueslis, rich chocolates, be right back just going to get a snack …

I know it costs me more to shop here but I don’t feel like I’m being processed. Some of the people who work there TALK to me for god’s sake.

Mainstream supermarkets don’t bother competing in this segment and I think that is a mistake. I am a profitable customer; I buy premium quality food products. And they would get a decent hunk of my business if they had a section of local, gourmet food products. This could be a new marketing push for a chain.

I would brand it as Coles’ Local, making it a new section which promoted direct-delivered product from small suppliers and constantly showcased NEW and seasonal products. It would require more management than other sections but it would be high margin and it could deliver one of the chains something they undervalue at present; point of difference.


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