Somerfield is embarking on the biggest campaign of its 18-month life in a bid to attract younger, more affluent consumers.
In many ways, it is a relaunch of the supermarket chain and an implicit admission that the name change from Gateway in May 1994 has failed to achieve all its desired aims.
The 8m offensive is designed to widen its customer base under the slogan “Savings that add up”. But marketing director David Coles admits the change in direction has been prompted partly by a residual “brand pollution” – the leftover baggage after shedding the Gateway name.
The slow progress of the store conversions from Gateway to Somerfield means it may take more than just this campaign to alter perceptions. A further 100 stores are expected to adopt the new name before the end of 1996.
The company is extending its Price Check scheme and has launched advertising through Butler Lutos Sutton Wilkinson, starring Birds of a Feather’s Lesley Joseph. Discounts have been stretched to more than 1,000 items, including half-price products and multi-buy deals.
Somerfield’s mistake, claims Coles, has been to concentrate on an aggressive price message. “It only appealed to a certain section of the population. We want to move away from this and not alienate anybody.”
It will be a delicate balancing act. Following news of Somerfield’s new marketing assault, Asda and Sainsbury’s both claimed shoppers would not be lured by “gimmicky” price cuts.
But Coles denies that it was never Somerfield’s intention to get involved in a price war.
“We have reviewed our target market and identified the opportunity to appeal to the majority of shoppers, who require good value for money. Price positioning is not what this is all about.”
But not everybody agrees that Somerfield can deliver. Euromonitor statistics show Somerfield has more stores than all its rivals, except the Argyll Group, Kwik Save and Iceland. Yet its value share of the market in 1994 was only 5.5 per cent.
Verdict Research retail consultant Clive Vaughan says Somerfield is caught in an “uncomfortable” position – not as big as the superstores and yet not as cheap as the discounters.
“I think discounting is appropriate but trying to wean young shoppers off Sainsbury’s and Tesco is a waste of time,” says Vaughan. “The ads work well and price discounting is a good weapon but in reality Somerfield cannot physically compete.”