FEARS that Sainsbury’s chief executive was set to demand high streets ‘shrink or die’ were quashed last night.
A precursor to a speech by the supermarket giant’s chief at the annual CityFood Lecture at the Guildhall in London, alleged that Justin King, who has run Sainsbury’s for more than eight years, was set to criticise high street shops for failing to cater for their market.
He was also said to be due to call on town centres to be cleaned up and made safer while insisting that supermarkets should not be blamed for the demise of the High Street.
But any fears that his demands could impact on Thame ahead of the proposed Sainsbury’s plans at the cattle market were quickly quelled on Wednesday night.
Instead, Mr King spoke of the return of the ‘savvy shopper’ and the ways in which the age of austerity in a digital revolution is shaping the habits of the everyday customer.
“Austerity measures have influenced the behaviour of households and we have seen the return of what we term the savvy shopper who manages their weekly and monthly household budgets carefully,” he said.
“Shopping little and often, making lists, cooking more, wasting less and often shopping locally, just like our parents and grandparents used to do. We are seeing coupon usage increasing too. However, at the same time, customers have not neglected their values.
“We are seeing a return to some old-fashioned shopping and retailers are tapping into this investing in skills, service and jobs, building stores more locally.
“But this time it’s different, back to the future, if you like. Loyalty cards, smartphones, and the internet enable us to have a more personal relationship than perhaps has existed for a generation.”
In response to the precursor, a spokesman for the supermarket giant said: “We have and will continue to be supporters of high streets up and down the country, no matter their form or function.
“We believe the best high streets are a mix of retail and other activities, and that successful, vibrant high streets can be a destination in their own right.
“In Thame, we firmly believe that our proposed store would complement the current retail offer, helping encourage more residents to stay in the town for their main weekly food shop and also take the opportunity to visit existing retailers.”