Claire Black: We want feel good bargains

Supermarket shoppers are more fickle than ever before. Picture: Robb McDougall
Supermarket shoppers are more fickle than ever before. Picture: Robb McDougall
Share this article
Have your say

WE want bargains but we want to feel good about them says Claire Black

Once upon a time I was a loyal Tesco shopper. Some time before that I was a loyal Sainsbury’s shopper. I worked in Safeway when I was a teenager, so I guess you could say I have some connection to Morrisons, and when I was a child my mum and dad shopped in Asda. In fact, it was the first shop I got lost in when I was three – I still vaguely remember the tannoy announcement and my ashen-faced mum appearing at the information desk. So, as a serial monogamist when it comes to shopping I feel that I am as qualified as anyone else to offer my tuppenceworth on this debate.

Once upon a time we were loyal shoppers, aligning ourselves with one brand, but that was before the internet let us compare prices without having to drive between shops with a pencil and a piece of paper – no one ever did that, did they? And it was before we could fulfil our ethical and aspirational ideals in Waitrose while satisfying our stretched wallets in Aldi and Lidl. That’s what I do. And it works. We want bargains but we want to feel good about them. Many of us also want to try to stay on the right side of what often seems like impossible ethical quandaries. Is that tuna line-caught? Must we eat salmon that comes all the way from Alaska? Does every empty shop really need to become a Tesco Metro?

So listen here, big four – I offer you some tips. First, we don’t like the fact that when we pop in for a pint of milk and a blob of mozzarella, we end up spending 20 quid because we get suckered into a buy one get one free extravaganza that seems like good value but plainly isn’t. There is a reason that we chuck out tonnes of food each year in this country, and buying more than we need because we think we’re getting a bargain is highly likely to be part of the problem.

Second, we don’t like it when you tell us you’re all about choice but actually everything that you sell is made by you. It’s fine to offer your own brand, of course it is, but if that’s increasingly all that you offer then we start to suspect that you’re pushing prices down for other producers and not really offering us much choice after all.

Third, after the horse meat saga and the dodgy discounts debacle and the misleading multibuys, we don’t really trust you any more. It’s true you are convenient and your marketing is eye catching, but we’re not as gullible as we once were and we want something better than you’re offering. So come on, catch up.

Bond villain’s unwitting homage

REMEMBER that scene in You Only Live Twice in which the really massive spaceship opens up and swallows the much smaller spaceship thereby precipitating a world crisis to be exploited by Ernst Stavro Blofeld as head of SPECTRE?

Well, it turns out when Roald Dahl wrote that James Bond screenplay he wasn’t entirely outlandish in his fictionalising. Newly declassified State Department documents have revealed that the CIA once worked on a secret mission with the eccentric tycoon, Howard Hughes, for which he built a massive ship (the Hughes Glomar Explorer) that was to be used to swallow a Soviet nuclear submarine which had sunk in the Pacific. The ship would bob on the surface of the water, while beneath the hull would open up and a grabbing mechanism would covertly pull the stricken sub on board.

Unfortunately it didn’t work – I’m hoping the grabber was better than one of those arcade fellas that are rigged to release the teddy just before he reaches the drop zone, but who knows? Still, it makes you wonder if there really is an extinct volcano somewhere with a lake that retracts hiding a top secret missile launching base.

IT’S not often that you discover you are the cause of a sales slump worth millions of pounds. But it’s true, I hold my hand up, it was me. And lots of other people just like me. We are the scourge of the “big four” supermarkets, the reason they are feeling the squeeze as their profits drop and their retail strategies look increasingly out of step with how many of us want to buy our food.

Tesco is the latest to ’fess up to falling sales; their profits having dropped by six per cent since last year. But a couple of months ago it was Morrisons (their profits were down by 13 per cent) and Sainsbury’s and Asda aren’t exactly flying high either.

Pink appeal begins to pall

I REALISE that schadenfreude isn’t very appealing, but I can’t help but cheer at news that sales of Barbie dolls have fallen by 14 per cent. It’s great that the popularity of a doll who has a pathological propensity to prefer pink, who lives in a Dream Mansion, has a waist that is anatomically impossible and totters on feet that are permanently bent into high heel shape seems to be on the wane. Let Toys Be Toys is the slogan for the campaign asking for toy companies (and publishers) to stop limiting the interests of children by pushing some playthings at girls and others at boys. Good work I say, but maybe with Barbie, consumers are doing it for themselves? «