Multichannel growth and a more clothing-friendly store strategy are top of the agenda for new Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe, who picked up the reins from Justin King this week.
King, who has been in the role 10 years, was widely praised as he formally stepped down at the supermarket’s annual general meeting (AGM) on Wednesday (July 9) for his work in building the company. Group sales at its last set of annual results were up 2.8% to £26.35bn, with clothing division Tu growing at more than twice the wider rate.
Speaking at the AGM, chairman David Tyler said Tu would benefit from multichannel developments, including a move to sell online and introduce click-and-collect – both of which are currently being trialled – and new “store space strategy, which brings our great food, clothing and general merchandise to new customers”.
Commentators told Drapers clothing should be seen as one of King’s success stories, and one which his right hand man Coupe was likely to continue prioritising.
Neil Saunders, managing director of retail research agency and consultancy Conlumino, said: “Sainsbury’s went from being virtually non-existent in clothing to having a very significant offer, both in terms of sales and how it is perceived in the industry.”
As the groceries sector becomes more challenging, “if anything clothing could become more important”, he added. Areas for Coupe “to put his stamp on” could include pushing multichannel, as well as looking at shifting the store portfolio towards larger formats more suited to clothing.
Standalone stores could also be a possibility, Saunders noted: “Grocers haven’t had raving success with that because the model is very different, but Sainsbury’s is more suited than others – it’s not highbrow, but more of a collection that could stand on its own.”
Euromonitor analyst Raphael Moreau warned the challenges in the grocery sector could affect Sainsbury’s investment into non-food, however, “and ultimately hinder the sales growth of clothing”.
He added: “[Its] focus on convenience formats may also see the clothing ranges becoming less of a priority.”