Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe has poured cold water on the threat of the discounters and said the grocer had “never been sharper” on price.
The supermarket giant’s chief executive insisted its price position in relation to Aldi and Lidl had continued to improve, despite claims that it had widened during the past year.
Earlier this week, Aldi said its price differential to Sainsbury’s was wider than it was a year ago – when the discounter was about 20% cheaper on a basket of goods – as its UK boss Matthew Barnes warned rivals it would sacrifice further margin to ensure it was never beaten on price.
But after unveiling a 1.1% dip in like-for-like sales during its second quarter – including its first ever quarterly fall in clothing sales – Sainsbury’s boss Coupe fired back.
He said of Aldi’s statistics: “That’s probably its biased view of the world. I could produce a survey that says our prices are lower than Aldi on many products in certain categories.
“You can use whatever price survey you want to dress up whatever story you want.
“I look at our internal data and firstly, the price difference between the big four grocers has never been narrower and our price position is as sharp as it has ever been.
“Secondly, our price position to the discounters has improved.”
Coupe refused to be drawn on what he believed Sainsbury’s price differential was to the discounters, but insisted the grocer had “never been sharper” on price.
He also moved to dampen down suggestions that Sainsbury’s was vulnerable to an assault from the discounters in London and the Southeast.
Aldi plans to open 70 new stores and refresh 100 more during 2017, with its focus widely expected to be in and around the M25.
But Coupe said: “The idea that it is marching into the Southeast is somewhat misguided.
“All of the evidence we have – and we have a pretty good line of sight at its store development programmes over the next three years – would suggest that, broadly speaking, it is opening stores where they already exist.
“In the case of Aldi, it is more biased towards the north of England and the Midlands, so that’s where it is opening more stores, and Lidl is more biased towards the Southeast and that’s where it tends to open more stores.”
Coupe hinted that Sainsbury’s would continue to turn up the heat on discount and more mainstream grocery rivals by driving its fulfilment proposition.
One-hour delivery extended
Sainsbury’s this week extended its pilot of same-day delivery through its Chop Chop mobile app across central London and Coupe suggested there could be more to come.
“Although Chop Chop is in its early stages, given that speed and convenience is one of the things customers will demand of us in the future, who knows where it will go, but so far so good,” he said.
“The fact that we are trialling it and seeing some quite interesting levels of take up would indicate that there is a demand for that kind of one-hour, almost emergency-like type of service for customers.
“I think this particular aspect of the market will develop over the next period of time.”