The story of a supermarket that spent a fortune and got it horribly wrong


A couple of miles from my house is a supermarket and in September the owners  obviously felt it needed modernising.

So every night for a period of two months teams worked on completely changing the design of the interior.

Of course it was chaotic for a while as customers spent most of their time asking assistants things like “where’s the chicken moved to?” and getting the reply, “Now that is a very good question.”

But eventually it all settled down, and it seemed to me to be quite an improvement.  Until I went shopping on Saturday morning when, having completed my rounds, I headed to the checkouts only to find total chaos.

The checkout queues stretched back and collided with people who were trying to move from aisle to aisle.  So, to pass the time of day while I stood in the queue I tried to work out for myself what was going wrong.

It didn’t take too long to see the problem.  Previously there were ten vertical aisles housing all the goods on sale (the “selling aisles”), and three horizontal aisles (the “walking across the shop aisles”) one at the far end the shop, one in the middle, one near the checkouts.

These were used by people to move from one side of  the shop to the other – particularly people like me who suddenly realise they have missed some vital ingredient that was needed and want to get back to a selling aisle across the far side of the shop.

But now in the new design there were only two horizontal aisles – the middle one was removed in order to make the selling aisles longer. So people were crowding into the aisle by the checkouts if they wanted to move across the shop and colliding with the checkouts. Result: chaos.

Morrisons has a turnover of around £16.3 billion – so they can afford every designer on the planet to get their shops’ interiors right, but they still made a mistake like that!  Not that I would have spotted it beforehand – I just have the benefit of hindsight and simply pondered the issue while standing in the queue and dodging people moving from aisle to aisle.

Now my point in all this is that when you are very close to an issue it is often hard to see it properly.  No one thought “can we do a flow chart of how people actually move around our shop?” so they didn’t realise how many people used the middle horizontal aisle.

Same with advertising.  You know your product so well that it can be hard to write an advert for it from the point of view of a teacher who doesn’t know what you sell and what it does.

Which is why some people choose to come to to ask us to come up with ideas for advertising the product. We don’t know the product or service, so have to learn it. We are in fact starting from the same position as your potential customers: ignorance.

And this is also why we invite companies to send us over their advertising so we can do a written or on-the-phone review.  There’s no charge, and there’s no obligation – so if you think our view is not right, that’s fine. If you are impressed, we can talk about what to do next.

Indeed frequently we do find one or two often little things in the advertising which are not clearly enough expressed, and which may well be resulting in teachers not fully appreciating what the product or what the service does, and what the benefits are.

If you would like us to undertake a review of one of your advertisements, either on the phone or in writing, just email it to with a note that it is “for review” and details of how you would like us to get in touch.

There really is no cost and no obligation.   If you would like to have a look at some of our thoughts you might find our marketing site to be of help.  Or you can call 01604 880 927

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