When I was 11, I remember going to the supermarket with my friend’s family.
Despite doing a big shop for a family of five, plus two horse-sized Dobermanns, we were in and out within 30 minutes. This was in marked contrast to the trips to Safeway that I took each week with my father, where buying half a trolley’s-worth of goods for one adult and one child took about an hour and a half.
You see, while my friend’s mum simply took off the shelves what she needed, my dad followed the man with the price gun up and down each aisle, swooping on freshly reduced produce. Our progress, therefore, was impeded by the speed at which the discounts were doled out. He was also the first person I know to embrace Lidl. And he visits the local market each week to buy meat and fish.
With his eye on the bottom line, his eschewing of brands and his willingness to trog all over town to get the shopping done, my father could be the poster boy for “the age of the promiscuous shopper”, as one newspaper called the customers whom the big-name supermarkets are cursing for their flighty ways. That Sainsbury’s shares are at an 11-year low, and that Morrisons’ and Tesco’s share prices are through the shop floor, are, industry experts believe, down to the fact that people are shopping around more. Though Mike Coupe, Sainsbury’s chief executive, also blames deflation in the market and the “post-recessionary effect” of customers “eating out more”.
Recently, I’ve heard more and more people talking up Lidl, particularly its bread and its bloody delicious Prosecco. My dad, as an early adopter, nods proudly when he encounters this kind of thing. That Ronny Gottschlich, Lidl’s UK boss, singled out “Maidstone mums” as the people to win over also goes down well with my father, who, as it happens, lives in Maidstone. Meanwhile, in the week that Aldi announced that it will stock £9.99 caviar in the weeks before Christmas, as well as the sort of multi-bird roasts and legs of Serrano ham that sound as though they’re fresh from Henry VIII’s table, Sainsbury’s has managed to alienate its customers further. A branch put up a poster in-store meant for staff’s eyes only, explaining the “fifty pence challenge”, which read: “Let’s encourage every customer to spend an additional 50p during each shopping trip between now and the year end.” Every little helps, as one of its competitors has it.
While I have seldom done a weekly big shop (round the corner from my flat there are two all-night convenience stores, plus a Tesco Metro, a Sainsbury’s Local and a Co-op), my shopping habits are changing, too. Although I love the odd trip to a vast Tesco – clothes! Coffee shops! Vegetable-misting displays! – I find that I seldom leave without filling a trolley and spending a fortune. When, a few months ago, a medium-sized Waitrose opened nearby, I shrugged. Once, I would have been through its doors like a rat up a rope. Now, I’m far more excited about the Lidl that’s due to open yards from my house.
Like father, like daughter. Although I intend to leave the price-gun chap to his own devices.Reuse content