Store front

Sainsbury’s On the Go: revolution or refresh?

This month Sainsbury’s opened a new kind of store, hinting at a shift into the ‘on the go’ market.

It’s geared towards busy city workers, with hot pizza, hot porridge and fresh sushi made daily, as well as a wide selection of existing ‘on the go’ products.

Sainsbury’s has promised that this store will provide ‘a new kind of convenience’ and we were intrigued to find out what they meant by this.

But now we’ve seen it for ourselves, we’re not so sure that it’s an entirely new concept…

Keeping it local

From all the articles we’ve read, we expect the store to be called Sainsbury’s On the Go – wrong! From the outside, it looks like any other Sainsbury’s Local, with the addition of a neon pizza slice in the window.

There are a few more neon symbols in other windows but if we didn’t know what we were looking for, we’re not sure we’d notice them.

It’s interesting that they’re sticking with the Local name. Is it because they didn’t want to change the fascia? Or is it because the brand equity is too strong to lose? Sainsbury’s stores have become synonymous with ‘Local’, after all.

We go inside to find out.


Seamless as standard

Inside, we see ‘on the go’ lit up on the wall, but it feels more like category navigation than a name for the whole store.

As we look around, we realise the offering isn’t just on the go at all; there are standard supermarket sections too, like BWS, ready meals and fruit and veg.

The store experience, however, has been created for busy people. There are card-only self-service checkouts, checkout-free payment options and a grab and go section at the front of the store.

There are also little touches like a wooden bar by the window, so you can eat your Sainsbury’s lunch (albeit standing up) and self-service coffee and fresh juice machines (the oranges smell amazing as soon as we walk in, which makes a refreshing change from the usual freshly baked bread smells which, although delicious, can be really distracting!).


Convenience 2.0

It’s not all about convenience in the traditional sense. The Japanese counter, for example, sells specialist ingredients like fried onions, soy sauce and cherry blossom coffee, as well as freshly made sushi, sashimi, gyoza etc.

We’re not sure if this is more for people picking up ingredients to cook Japanese at home, or those buying condiments to keep at the office and spice up their lunches. Either way, it feels insightful – we’re guessing Sainsbury’s used local customer data to make this decision.

You can also pick up Click & Collect orders from Argos and Tu, which shows Sainsbury’s has really thought about what would be convenient for customers, beyond breakfast, lunch and snacks on the go.

Is this what Sainbury’s means by ‘a new kind of convenience’?

The Whippet verdict

We’re still a bit confused as to why the store has been called ‘Sainsbury’s On the Go’ in industry press. It’s handy for city workers on the go, sure. But the offering isn’t solely on the go – that name feels like a way to grab headlines.

Before our visit, we were intrigued by the idea of supermarkets moving into solely ‘on the go’ stores. After our visit, we can see why Sainsbury’s hasn’t done this. While supermarkets can offer customers everything that ‘on the go’ behemoths like Pret and Leon can – fresh food and coffee to take away all day – they’ll never have the same foodie credentials.

But they can offer things that Pret and Leon can’t: milk, loo roll, ready meals to pick up on the way home – that’s just as convenient as food to go.

Why would supermarkets ever choose one type of convenience over another, when they can do both?

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