I have a theory about supermarkets.
OK, it’s probably not a particularly robust theory and can probably be disproven by the nation’s Marketing Maestros and Dukes of Data, but it is a theory nevertheless.
I reckon that we develop an affinity with a particular supermarket brand in our youth and that this impacts on our preference when we become adults. And once established, this emotional preference can be hard to shift, despite ‘deep price cuts’ or ‘everyday low price’ messages.
If my theory is true, maybe it is based on some deep primeval instinct – the place responsible for feeding and nurturing us as growing kids – or maybe it is just a straightforward case of familiarity, but either way, I feel there is something in it.
In Australia, with its cosy duopoly, the theory is perhaps less interesting. Coles or Woollies? Woollies or Coles? Pretty interchangeable if you ask me.
But in the UK, there is a broader range of options – Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, Morrisons, Budgen….and my own particular favourite, Waitrose.
For some, Waitrose is derided as a paragon of middle class snobbery – a cliché that emerged hilariously recently in the responses to the brand’s recent Twitter campaign. If you haven’t read about this, check it out here.
But for me, Waitrose was the only real supermarket choice in my nearest town when I was growing up. “Going to the supermarket” became a generic term for “Going to Waitrose” in my household, so I spent many years building up an affinity for the brand.
To be fair, there was one other (sort of) supermarket in the town, but it was an extremely downbeat Tesco, well before they had heard of marketing (or decent food come to that).
This Tesco was the sort of place that parents would hustle their children past and any customers actually exiting the place would typically do so in a furtive manner, glancing this way and that for anyone they might know, before scuttling off up the street, with collar turned up, much in the manner of someone emerging from an “adult bookshop”.
No, for me Waitrose was the only place in town.
Many years later, in a strange coincidence, my new home town of Lewes has two main supermarkets and they are, you guessed it, Waitrose and Tesco (plus a more recent interloper by the name of Aldi).
By now, Tesco has raised its game considerably and my local branch has a large site with plentiful parking outside. I do occasionally shop there and even feel I can do so without having to don a disguise.
Aldi is apparently making great inroads according to recent market reports, attracting new customers and trying hard to disprove my theory at the same time. But somehow, I can’t bring myself to shop there. Yet, anyway.
No, for me old habits die hard and as a result, Waitrose has resumed its place in my affections as my supermarket of choice. And, if my theory has any legs, it will be starting to establish an embryonic bond with my own kids sometime soon.
But in the meantime, I am enjoying walking those familiar aisles once again…besides which, if you are looking for fresh quail’s eggs, you really can’t afford to take chances now, can you?