CAMPAIGN DIRECT: Profile - Maureen Mitchell. How Sainsbury’s is finding the best way to help customers shop online. What is home shopping - and will it actually work? Maureen Mitchell has the answers, Tim Rowell says

It’s a familiar tale. It’s Friday afternoon and friends are due for dinner. You’re planning to go to the supermarket on the way home but, just as you’re leaving the office, the boss asks you to finish one more piece of work. Panic ensues.

It’s a familiar tale. It’s Friday afternoon and friends are due for

dinner. You’re planning to go to the supermarket on the way home but,

just as you’re leaving the office, the boss asks you to finish one more

piece of work. Panic ensues.

Maureen Mitchell may just be the woman to solve your problems. She is

senior manager of the consumer direct division at Sainsbury’s and is

head of Orderline, a new service that gives customers the chance to

order shopping by telephone, fax or the Internet. Customers collect

their order the same day or it is delivered at a pre-arranged time the

following day.

Mitchell’s career path appears to to have been geared to her current

role. Having trained as a teacher in the North, Mitchell moved to London

and her interest in child behaviour and psychology drew her into a child

research agency. From there she moved into quantitative research to

expand her skills from understanding behaviour to learning how to

measure media and attitudes. After several years in the agency sector

she joined one of her clients, MFI, where she established and ran its

research department.

In 1989, she joined the home shopping company, Grattan. ’I enjoyed

working in retail marketing and had a good understanding of strategic

development,’ she explains, ’but what I really wanted to do was to

understand direct marketing, particularly the use and manipulation of

customer databases.’

Having served her apprenticeship in direct marketing, Mitchell took the

opportunity to return to the North when she was offered a job with Texas

Homecare. She expected to remain in that job ’probably until I retired’

but, after the takeover of Texas by Homebase, she moved to Sainsbury’s

in 1995 to develop its embryonic home shopping plans. The supermarket

giant was looking for someone with experience in home shopping who

understood direct marketing, database marketing and retail marketing

techniques. Mitchell was a perfect fit.

Sainsbury’s, like other supermarket chains, is conscious of the impact

home shopping could have on its businesses. Mitchell’s role is to trial

and promote home shopping. ’The only way we’ll find out if the public

are going to want this kind of service is to give something now, so when

they really want it we’ll be prepared.’

Through her research, Mitchell has discovered that interest in a home

shopping service exists in around one in ten households.

Trial runs in stores in Solihull, Kenton and Watford, however, resulted

in an unexpectedly high take-up. Direct mail has been the main focus of

attracting customers but the control traditionally associated with

direct marketing has been conspicuously absent in this case. ’When you

are making offers to people via direct mail, you assume you can turn the

tap off but you can’t legislate for the situation when someone likes it

and recommends the service to their friends - you can’t then say ’sorry,

you can’t have it’.’

Marketing, response handling and telemarketing are being handled by

Brann out of its Bristol office. The aim is to have the service in place

in 32 stores across the country by October. A decision will then be made

about taking the service nationwide.

Mitchell undoubtedly feels the Orderline launch has been the highlight

of her career to date. It has certainly taken up a great deal of her


Each store roll-out means the marketing team of two (including Mitchell)

must organise local mailings, PR and press activity. In addition, they

must ensure the synergy of all the associated communications including

the video guides, catalogues, welcome packs and carrier bags.

There’s no denying that home shopping will have some impact on the

supermarket sector but it’s impossible to predict the extent. Mitchell

has perhaps the most realistic take on this issue. ’There are real

misconceptions about this - people have this idea that you’ll either be

a home shopper or a supermarket shopper but that’s not the case. Home

shopping is just another way of doing your shopping. It’s not a separate

service; it’s complementary, an extension of consumer choice.’

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