Yesterday it emerged that Sainsbury’s had decided to abandon a newly-built 80,000 square foot supermarket in Middlesbrough that is claims is ‘no longer viable’ thanks to changing shopping habits. It’s just the latest sign that the property war big supermarkets were engaged in before their recent malaise was a waste of time.
Their plans to recover from that mistake have been varied. All have been focused on increasing their number of convenience stores and other efforts have ranged from the bizarre (like Morrisons’ ill-fated vegetable misting machines) to the bold (like Tesco’s Drastic Dave’s plans to sell off the family silver).
It seems that one ingredient of Sainsbury’s planned turnaround will be fashion. Its big-on-value Tu clothing range has apparently been doing pretty well - earlier this year it reported annual sales of £800m and it claims to be Britain’s seventh-largest draper by volume (10th by value).
That’s particularly impressive considering that until today they weren’t available online for most customers. Its new website, which eschews the mothership’s traditional luminous orange in favour of a distinctly Asos-like black and white design, has been trialled with selected customers for the past year and is now available across the UK.
‘Customers have increasingly been looking to buy Tu online, and we have seen a really positive reaction to the new site from the selection of postcodes that have had access to it over the past few months,’ said the supermarket’s head of online, Robbie Feather. ‘We’re already seeing particularly strong online sales of dresses and childrenswear and look forward to customers’ reaction to the new site.’
Sainsbury’s might have difficulty convincing vast swathes of the population that a supermarket’s website is the best place to buy a new outfit, and fashion will only take up so much of the slack lost to Aldi et al. But the performance of Tu is nonetheless a positive story for a sector that’s currently in the doldrums.