business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

I’ve been doing this a long time. I first started writing about retail in 1984, and in the words of Indiana Jones, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.”

What that means is that even if I’m not all that smart, I sometimes have a little more context that I can use when examining a situation.

That’s what happened this week when I saw a Business Insider piece that compares food shopping in the US and the UK to get a sense of which market has the best offering.

When I saw the premise, I was intrigued. But then I saw that they would be comparing stores in London and New York City. That didn’t strike me as all that fair, because in my experience, mainstream stores in London just seem to be better than those in New York. It’s always been that way.

Then I saw which stores they were comparing - a Tesco Express in London with a Gristedes in New York City.

That’s really not fair. Tesco, while it has had its problems of late, is a global company that is the biggest supermarket chain in the UK; it always has been a leader. Gristedes has just 30 stores in the New York area, and in many ways is the very model of the obsolete, stuck-in-the-past, hanging-onto-dear-life-by-virtue-of-some-good-locations supermarket company; not to be unkind, but I know exactly what eight-letter word Donald Trump would use to describe some of its stores.

The story is amusing, and can be read here. (Spoiler alert: London wins. Easily. No contest.)

But what really stands out to me, and strikes me as completely legitimate about the story, is the stark contrast drawn between the two store experiences via pictures.

In almost no way could Gristedes be described as bringing its A-game to the market. Unless this actually is Gristedes’ A-game, in which case I’m really glad that its owner and chairman, John A. Catsimatidis, was unsuccessful in his run to be mayor of New York City. (If he did to New York what he’s done with Gristedes, we’d all be in trouble.)

Look at the pictures. Ask yourself if your stores look anything like this. Ask yourself if you are bringing your A-game to the market.

The comparison between Tesco and Gristedes isn’t a fair fight. But it still in an Eye-Opener.
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