Waiting for a better taste

There has been a long wait to see Sainbury’s new corporate identity. And for most people, that wait isn’t over yet.

20/20 Design and Strategy was appointed to the project in 1997, after a race against Rodney Fitch & Co and Conran Design Group (DW 17 October 1997). The new identity, store formats, vehicle liveries and other elements of the 20/20 project are now to be implemented over four to five years. 20/20, meanwhile, is retained indefinitely as brand guardian.

Critics of the chain’s slow-moving management style are hardly likely to be placated by such a long project to update its image. Kevin Vyse of retail consultancy Brand Matters says the new identity, which focuses on Sainsbury’s core values of quality food products, is a sensible move. “Returning to the core values is the right thing to do. But it would have been better a year ago,” he says.

By the time the identity has been implemented, predicts Vyse, e-commerce developments may mean that supermarkets are used completely differently. If basic foods are delivered to homes, then supermarket visits could become less frequent and characterised as much by entertainment as convenience, he suggests.

Initially, five Sainsbury’s stores will be given new facias, plus elements of new interiors, also by 20/20, on a trial basis. Sainsbury’s has not announced the locations of the revised stores, but sources suggest the Nicholas Grimshaw-designed branch in London’s Camden Town is likely to be one.

Customers of the remaining 410 supermarket branches will face the existing stores, which Sainsbury’s chief executive Dino Adriano has admitted are run down, for a little longer. Or, as is increasingly happening, they will go to the nearest Tesco.

The 20/20 identity introduces Sainsbury’s corporate colours. Living Orange will replace the previous hue (apparently known to Sainsbury’s staff as “dying orange”), offset by a dark blue. Living Blue has been chosen for Sainsbury’s Bank, in which 20/20 expects no further involvement.

Blue will be used for “serious” in-store communication issues – notices warning that alcohol will not be sold to under-18s, for example – as well as messages in ad campaigns. Interstate becomes Sainsbury’s official typeface, although its identity is in a hand-drawn type by 20/20. The group has also given strategic advice on Sainsbury’s websites, which will eventually feature a “three click” policy: you should only have to click your mouse three times to reach your desired destination.

A new corporate tagline, Making life taste better, has been created by ad agency M&C Saatchi, replacing the former line, Value to shout about, from the short-lived ad campaign starring comedian John Cleese, devised by Abbott Mead Vickers. New staff uniforms by Irish designer Paul Costelloe have been selected. Store layouts are still being finalised.

At the early stages of the project, 20/20 carried out extensive market research in conjunction with Mercer Consulting Group. According to 20/20 managing director Rune Gustafson, research “revealed that the Sainsbury’s brand is the strongest in the market, there were lots of good things happening in the business.

“Our work has been driven by the needs and desires of Sainsbury’s customers – with the aim of making their shopping experience easier, more enjoyable and more inspirational, while at the same time communicating Sainsbury’s commitment to ‘Making life taste better’ and enforcing the company’s unequalled reputation for quality, choice and value,” says Gustafson. “We’re setting the tone of voice for the brand.”

But in the ultra-competitive supermarket sector, rivals are no doubt rubbing their hands in glee at the time it is taking to implement the project. They happily point out that Asda was turned around by Archie Norman, from a basket case to a profitable group, in a far shorter period.

Sainsbury’s management style is becoming less bureaucratic, and a round of redundancies at both head office and store levels will mean that junior management is especially hard-working. But it is still a cautious group.

Implementation of the design project will be overseen by an in-house design group, which will meet weekly. It will be chaired by “brand champion” Andrew Ground, deputy to marketing director Kevin McCarten, and members will include 20/20 project manager Jim Thompson. Finer points of the designs will be modified and adapted.

Sainsbury’s could be seen as a victim of its own former success, in that expectations for its recovery are higher than was the case for, say, Asda. Having been at number one until it being overtaken by Tesco, Sainsbury’s will be seen as failing unless it reclaims the position as the UK’s most profitable supermarket.

Effective branding could aid the recovery, but it may be operating in a vacuum unless the supermarket’s management takes direct action.


The British Retail Consortium publishes a monthly retail sales monitor. Its figures for May show the latest in a recent line of falls in the value of sales.

For the food and drinks sector, BRC economist Pamela Webber, has reported: ‘Overall a better month than April, although year-on-year comparisons were distorted by the Whitsun Bank Holiday falling a week later this year. Sales of meat were down from last year, when hot weather had encouraged barbecues.

Inflation in this sector was low, with alcohol showing a fall in price as several supermarket chains had promotions running. Fresh produce also saw price deflation, although sales volumes held up well. Packaged and tinned groceries saw little movement in either price or volume, although the sales mix was different, due to the colder weather.’


If Sainsbury’s is to catch up with arch rival Tesco it has work to do.

In the 52 weeks to 27 February, Tesco saw total group sales reach £18.5bn, a 6.3 per cent increase on the previous year. Pre-tax profits rose 7.8 per cent to £881m.

In the first quarter of the current financial year group sales have increased by 9.6 per cent, while UK sales have increased by 7.1 per cent. Like-for-like sales, which only compare stores which existed in the previous year’s figures, have climbed by 3.7 per cent, showing a more efficient use of retail space.

At Tesco’s AGM last week, chairman John Gardiner announced plans to open a further 26 UK stores this year. These will provide an extra 65 000m2, in addition to the 23 225m2 due to be added by extensions to existing stores. Overseas, the chain plans 13 new stores, adding 139 350m2.

Design groups used by Tesco for store work include Crabtree Hall and RPA Europe. The retailer has a roster of packaging groups to develop own-label ranges.

Sainsbury’s financial statement, for the 52 weeks ending 6 March, showed group sales up by 5 per cent to £16.3bn. Operating profit, before Year 2000 costs, exceptional costs and profit sharing, reached £867m.

The group cut costs by £160m, by measures including hundreds of redundancies.

Group chief executive Dino Adriano told shareholders: ‘We have radically re-assessed our current position and prospects. The conclusions of this exercise have been stark and consequent actions both radical and rapid. Results will start to show soon but the full benefits will flow over a one to two-year period.’

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