Bakers and the new retail environment

A piece by Waitrose managing director Mark Price, recently published in The Times, has got me thinking again about the retail environment in which we live.

Avid readers of bakeryinfo.co.uk will know that we cover the supermarkets because of the staples they stock – bread, cakes, pastries and desserts. This has always been a competitive landscape, but recently that competition has ramped up to new heights.

I spoke to Trevor Herbert last year, father of the Fabulous Baker Brothers, Tom and Henry Herbert, and he put the phrase “a post-supermarket world” in my head. At the time I was unsure that such a world would ever exist and to be honest I still am. I am sure that supermarkets have a role to play. But in the intervening year there appears to have been an acceleration of change and, from a supermarket point of view, not necessarily for the better.

Disastrous

We have had a disastrous set of results from Tesco, Morrisons and even the Co-op, as consumers vote with their feet.

This step-change in how the nation shops represents a variety of opportunities for the baker. Partnerships are being formed. The way we shop is evolving. And one of the few to actually recognise this is Waitrose.

Price, aka ‘the chubby Grocer’, has marshalled the troops well since the downturn that started in 2008. As he writes in his newspaper article, with the collapse of Lehman Bro many predicted hard times for the upmarket chain. However, unlike some in the supermarket sector, the chain has thrived. And what are Price’s reasons for the success? Not being afraid to be different, he says, citing Costa Markides, professor of strategic leadership at London Business School. And, Price adds: “The ability to compare on the internet means price is no longer the differentiator it once was. Getting a good deal is a given, true value is the battleground. Innovation, excitement, experience and trust are where many customers will make their judgements.”

Bakers, just read that quote from Price again. Print it out; put it on the walls of your offices, bakery or shops. There is a new way of retailing and cost is not it.

The mananging director of Waitrose knows it, as he writes: “For supermarkets to be successful in the future they will need to embrace technology and respond positively to customers’ changing lifestyles.”

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