Wimbledon:  Strawberries & Cream

Retailing in the Week Ahead, Week 28, 2018

The battle for Ultrafresh is back across Europe.  Consumers have their barbecues out, kids are leaving schools and spending more time with family and friends, the World Cup is on and everyone is throwing parties.  Sadly, some World Cup parties have been canceled yet others go on – France, Belgium, Croatia, and England.  Of course, here in London tennis is back and sometimes people are watching Wimbledon rather than the World Cup.

The Wimbledon tennis tournament has been serving ticket holders Strawberries & Cream since 1877.  In doing so, they have built a tradition of having the best “Ultrafresh” service in the game.  While most supermarkets can ‘hope’ to compete with Wimbledon, we send our secret shoppers out to see which supermarkets keep the tradition alive and which ones get sent home in the qualifiers.

Next week we will announce this year’s supermarket Strawberries & Cream champion.  We believe there are lessons for retailers when competing with other retailers in the analysis AND for suppliers understanding their customers and how to drive footfall with brands.

Here is a look at what we have learned so far:

This year compared to last year.  This year has been very different from last year for three reasons. 

  • First, the heat.   The weather this year has been much hotter than normal making it more difficult for retailers to avoid spoilage.  The result has been fewer SKUs on offer, smaller pack sizes, and greater OOS levels than what we have seen in our previous year reviews.
  • Second, World Cup.  Additionally, lots of fans are more interested in football this year than in tennis, making the promotional activities around Strawberries less visible than in years past.
  • Third, farm brands.  Many retailers have reacted to Tesco’s success with Farm Brands and introduced their own, as a result, we have seen a greater variety of ‘tiers’ in the private label assortments of the major supermarkets.

Availability.  Last year, Lidl made a bold promise to only sell Strawberries that were less than 24 hours from the farm.  The result:  Out-of-Stocks.  While all of the grocers we visited had OOS problems, Lidl suffered the most in our view, particularly in evenings.  This year:  The tables are turned.  Lidl has been remarkably consistent in having high levels of stock while others, particularly Tesco, have seen problems with availability.  We believe this comes down to three things:

  • Consistency.  Lidl appears to have ‘not given up’ on a good idea.  Last year’s promise to consumers was the right promise but they were not ready for the response.  Lidl stuck with the good idea and is making it work this year.  Other retailers have tried to do too many new and different things this year around creating new problems for themselves.
  • Volume versus Margin. When looking at pricing tactics, we can see two groups of retailers – those looking to boost margin % and those looking to achieve cash margin / drive footfall.  Lidl is clearly looking to drive footfall with only one ‘trade up’ option.  Other retailers, particularly Morrisons, Waitrose, Ocado and Sainsburys, have been trying to ‘uptrade’ consumers to higher margin options such as “Mixed Berry” packages and “Fruit Salads” to get the margins they are looking to achieve and avoid head to head comparisons with the lower priced competition.
  • Promotion.  Interestingly, the number of multibuy options available this year is much lower than last year with Tesco, Morrisons and Ocado (Waitrose @ Ocado) providing the only multibuys.  Promotional activities are much reduced compared to the past.

Digital Shelf.  Some retailers have heard the message loud and clear:  Consumers shop on digital devices before/after/during their trip to the shops.  Some retailers have used the principals of digital selling to their advantage, others, not so much.  We call out the retailers who ‘get’ digital and are doing it well.

  • Endless Aisle. I know what you are thinking.  Amazon bought Whole Foods a year ago and they have an online partnership with Morrisons.  Therefore, you think, Amazon has the best endless aisle in Britain.  Think again.  We tried Amazon on multiple devices from multiple post codes only to walk away with the feeling that they are not currently a threat to anyone competing in Ultrafresh Strawberries.  Our champion?  You guessed it, Ocado.  Ocado has the full range of Waitrose Strawberries but has algorithms working to re-price them so that the best seller is sharp on price and the trade up item is full of margin.  In addition, Ocado is the only major supermarket working with brands to have lots of endless aisle options and a full range of different types of strawberries.
  • Cross-merchandising.  In our view, Asda delivers the best backhand in the competition.  In a small screen space, Asda manages to cross-merchandise cream and Pimm’s all on one page, keep the price message sharp and deliver the tie-in to Wimbledon celebrations as a key message.
  • Online to Offline Experience. Lidl has been creating their own chances by sponsoring England’s World Cup team and thereby having plenty of opportunity to connect social media, marketing, and in-store POS to the overall World Cup theme.  None of the other grocers have that weapon and with England in the semis you can expect Lidl to be bursting the queues with customers.  Our analysts have reported that Lidl has had the busiest stores when we have been our observations.  This is backed with Kantar Worldpanel data showing that Lidl has been outpacing other supermarkets in recent months in terms of year-on-year growth.

Please consult the Powerpoint deck link for our early observations HERE and look out for next week’s final champion announcement.

We would love your thoughts, questions, comments.  Please email, add a note in the comment section, or phone.   We are here to help you with your questions on retail – that’s all we do!  Good luck to the Wimbledon players remaining in week 2 as well as France, Belgium, Croatia, and England as they prepare to play the final two matches of this year’s World Cup.

Below you will also find hyperlinks to highlighted publications from Week 27.

Regards –

Ray Gaul – Ray.Gaul@KantarConsulting.com or @RayGaul on Twitter or Ray Gaul on Linkedin.

Corporate web pages:  www.KantarConsulting.com, www.KantarRetailiQ.com, @KantarConsulting

Links to Publications from Week 27

New consumer realities: The evolution of promotional activities

The world is getting smaller, pushing Tesco and Carrefour together

Ramadan retailing in the UAE: Brick-and-mortar highlights

Ramadan retailing in the UAE: Online highlights

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