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By Anna Clymo and Freya Hansen, Business Consultants at BJSS
Last week Sainsbury's re-opened its Mansion House store - the first of its new 'On the Go' convenience concept - with plans to further test the format in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol and other London locations over the course of this year.
Since the renovation, our immediate reaction was that the store feels a lot more spacious. Previously, especially at peak commuting hours and lunchtime, the store was often cramped with busy workers trying to grab something convenient to eat that day or evening. The store’s layout is now much easier to navigate, with designated areas for ‘On the go’ meal deals, hot food and fresh fruit and veg to name a few.
The signage is particularly useful for the store’s target market, City workers who are short of time, with each dedicated section clearly visible to customers in large, luminated writing. Now, when you walk in, you are greeted with a small ‘On the Go’ section with a product offering that changes based on the time of the day. The self-checkout area has also been expanded, with fewer staffed tills, further demonstrating the awareness that customers aren’t around to spend time and browse, they’re simply wanting a quick and easy shopping experience.
Despite the product range being entirely directed at the ‘On-the-go’ consumer, the products on offer haven’t dramatically changed. In order to entice customers into the store, and away from the tough competition on their doorstep, Sainsbury's need to take this store to the next level, and now focus on providing a more appealing and distinctive range that truly caters to the needs of a City worker. In today’s world, it is simply not enough to change signage and store layouts if the product offering doesn’t match what customers are looking for.
It’s also interesting to see Sainsbury's promoting its ‘SmartShop’ initiative – an innovation that had previously been trialled (and quickly scrapped) in its Holborn store. Cashier-less stores continue to be a hot topic within the industry and whilst this should cater perfectly to an on-the-go customer, the app setup is still quite lengthy. With continuous advancements and debate happening in this area, it is key for Sainsbury's to understand how its customers will truly utilise these new technologies and derive value from them. This is something that we personally question, and we are intrigued to see what the uptake will be in this store.
Sustainability continues to be a challenge for retailers as they continually try to understand how best they can play their part. Unfortunately, the recycling section in-store feels a bit like an afterthought. We’re not convinced that a 5p off coupon for each bottle returned is enough of an incentive to encourage customers more than the convenience of using a recycling bin outside. On the other hand, it is great to see that all Oak wood used throughout the store is reclaimed. - Small gestures like this have a positive impact on customers’ mindset towards a brand, and we look forward to seeing what else Sainsbury’s does in this space to combat waste and minimise its impact on the planet.
Whilst the store has undergone significant improvements, only time will tell whether this new concept is exciting enough for busy City workers who are already spoilt for choice.