Uhh oh! Sainsbury’s is moving in: can your customers taste the difference?

We loved this sardonic retort from a local independent bistro in Clapham’s swanky pants Abbeville road district. Written on the Bistro Unions’ blackboard wall are the words ‘Taste the Difference’ placed strategically next door to the building site of a new Sainsbury’s Local.

“Forget them! Come in here and taste the difference! Put down the Sainsbury’s shopping basket and think twice before settling for convenience. Step inside our emporium of food heavenliness where your din dins have at least half a chance of being prepared with time, care, thoughtfulness and an ounce of flaming passion” –  said so effortlessly in one easy quip.

Incidentally, I popped into Macfarlane’s deli while I was in the area and asked them about their thoughts on their new neighbour.

Naturally a little perturbed, they worry that faced with the convenience and cost-price that a bigger brand affords, residential customers who would normally drop by for basics like eggs, milk, and butter etc will instead walk ‘zombie-like’ next door.

It’s what we do though isn’t it? Sometimes we don’t even register we’re making a choice where we shop.

Then there’s the price. Macfarlane’s food is lovely, but it’s pricey; but then you get what you pay for. I wonder if on basic staples – what the professionals call ‘pull products’ –  small indies in the area will ever be able to match the mighty Sainsbury’s. It’s doubtful. Only today it was published that farmer’s in Leicester held a protest outside Asda to let supermarkets know exactly what they’re doing to their livelihood. Farmers are paid in the region of 24p for a litre of milk, and it costs 30p to produce. It’s not hard to do the maths.

But then as I discussed with a Macfarlane’s staff member, a Sainsbury’s local recently moved into my neck of the woods at the top of Lordship lane. It strangely regenerated the area bringing more people to what is naturally a less busy end of the high street. In that respect, while commuters are stopped in their tracks by the bright orange sign on their way home from work, that’s the chance for the surrounding indie delis, bistros, cafes and bakeries to ensure that THEIR shop-front is well merchandised and attractive. So attractive that the unsuspecting customer is kept drooling past the sanitised neon lighting and straight into the home comfort of your till instead.

So it’s swings and roundabouts. The big bad wolf may not be all that bad for business after-all.





There are 6 comments for this article
  1. James Hayward at 5:14 pm

    I love Bistro Union and their bigger brother Trinity restaurant, my hope is that anyone with good enough taste to choose decent establishments like these will not be tempted by the bright unforgiving lights next door!

    Interesting point about some of these better known ‘Locals’ increasing footfall to areas, I have faith tha ‘Taste’ will win the battle of the high street.

  2. hazza at 9:14 pm

    Having a free to use cash point will make me more likely to use Abbeville road.

    Also, what kind of idiot buys their everyday staples from Macfarlane’s?

  3. MacFarlanes at 12:14 pm


    I wonder what the psychology is behind customers’ reluctance to pay over the odds for ‘essentials’, but happiness to pay £2.45 for a poor relation of a flat white from the green monster down the road. Like the lady in the Guardian on saturday, who calculated she had spent £22000 on coffee to takeaway over 10 years, I wonder why we will spend money on this, but complain that ‘we’ are too expensive. Hmm, just a thought.

  4. Martin at 12:44 pm

    I completely agree that a free cash machine would be most beneficial to Abbeville road. A few times I’ve gone along to the Sunday Farmer’s market thinking I can get money out and and having to pay to withdraw cash. Sadly it will be the introduction of a Sainsburys that will bring this to the street.

    Personally I think that buying essentials from places like the local deli and farmers market etc saves in the long run. As a household we found that we were going into the big supermarkets and walking out spending a small fortune by buying completely unnecessary items. Since changing out buying habits by going along to farmers markets and local deli we are buying good quality food and saving by not buying things that we didn’t need.

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