Annie Dawson, TMF tutor, writes……..
I was in a Waitrose store the other day, and somewhere at the front of the store amongst all the Click and Collect pick up stations, the free coffee for Waitrose card holders, the returns area and Customer Services, not to mention the aisle clogging displays of shortbread tins (or was it biscuits for cheese tubs?) was a large crate of tangerines (or were they nectarines or satsumas – a whole different article could be written about the difference between those three fruit – what is the difference?)…So yes, to get back to the story line – a big crate of small round orange fruit…with a sign on it saying “Free fruit for children” and “please take one”.
I love this idea. So I hung out in the area for a while (I was picking up a John Lewis Click and Collect item anyway, which I hadn’t realised, until this point, that I could pick up in a Waitrose…nice one !) so had some licence to hang around …
The store was full of families all Christmas shopping, with kids being dragged/wheeled round in the wake of their slightly harassed parents….and not of them stopped to take a fruit, even though they had to do some fairly major negotiating of space to get round the free fruit display….
This sort of amazed and annoyed me at the same time…so I did a bit of research to see what was behind the idea.
It appears that Tesco set the scene on this initiative. In a bid to try to win over shoppers in the all- important Christmas period, Tesco who are also fighting heavy competition from discounters and the onslaught of online shopping decided to place boxes of apples, bananas and oranges near the store entrance for parents to give to their children. The idea started at a Tesco store in Lincolnshire and proved so popular that Tesco decided to roll it out into fifteen stores in the Glasgow area. The decision to roll the initiative into Glasgow could be because of a call by the British Medical Association earlier in the year, to make fruit and vegetables freely available in all of Scotland’s primary schools.
The thinking behind the initiative (according to Tesco) is about trying to instil in kids the fact that they need to eat more healthily (good luck on that one), that the free fruit is just one of their five a day (which in itself is now wrong….as I think we all know this has been the mantra for years, but according to UCL research the recommendation is that we should double our intake to ten portions a day and that it should include vegetables which are four times healthier than fruit), and that fruit is better than sweets and salty snacks.
The Tesco boss, Dave Lewis has always encouraged his staff to improve the service they offer to shoppers as he believes that the more licence you give to the Tesco team to help shoppers the more shoppers will respond by shopping with you. Tesco are clearly hoping to benefit from some of the media comments about this initiative as they try to re-build their reputation with their shoppers following the accounting scandal and complaints from customers about high prices and poor services.
I don’t think anyone would dispute the thinking behind the idea…I’m just not sure the in-store activation of it has been a successful as it could have been….although that comment is based on a one store view so is probably best ignored.
The idea does seem to have got quite a lot of traction, along with some amazing responses to it on social media sites it has now spread as an idea to Waitrose and Budgens…..and in Australia the Woolworths supermarket chain is doing the same in its 900+ stores. McDonald’s has also recently take steps to brush up its image and reputation in the UK for healthier foods by launching “free fruit Fridays” giving away a bag of fruit with every Happy Meal sold on one Friday each month.
As an aside to free fruit some of the other initiatives that have spawned from this trial include; distributing unsold food to charities and stopping the sale of sugary drinks which are designed for school lunchboxes. I think the idea of sugary drinks for kids school lunch boxes is well publicised and many column inches have been written about this topic – but the distribution of un-sold food to local charities is one that is probably worthy of another article…a fabulous and very worthy idea, but operationally a bit of a nightmare.
So far, the free fruit trial is certainly winning some good social media points for Tesco and is a pretty easy, relatively cheap way of stores winning the hearts and minds (and hopefully wallets) of their local shoppers…bravo Tesco!