On the Record: Robert Dwek talks to the man behind Sainsbury’s successful Reward Card about his new challenge

What’s it like being poached by Somerfield?

What’s it like being poached by Somerfield?

I was sad to leave Sainsbury’s - there’s still work to be done there,

but sometimes opportunities are too good to miss.

With Sainsbury’s announcing yet another fall in profits and Somerfield

revealing sales well below the sector average, aren’t you jumping from

one sinking ship to another?

Sainsbury’s performance has nothing to do with why I am leaving; in many

ways that kind of performance provides the biggest opportunities for

making improvements.

As for Somerfield, the group sales, which include the Food Giant chain

and a number of unmodernised Gateway stores, disguise a far better

performance from the Somerfield supermarkets. I think Somerfield is

strategically very well placed in the convenience food sector.

How long were you at Sainsbury’s and what was your role in launching the

Reward Card?

I was there for 22 months. My department was responsible for developing

the card and the whole area of relationship marketing.

When Tesco launched its Clubcard, Sainsbury’s sneered that this was a

cheap tactic that it wouldn’t emulate. Wasn’t it nerve-wracking for you

watching Tesco’s undoubted success and knowing that it had taken a giant

leap forward in the innovation stakes?

I wasn’t at Sainsbury’s when Tesco launched its card, but once it had

launched it was obvious it was going to benefit from being first, so

there was little advantage in Sainsbury’s rushing to launch its own.

It’s much better to take your time and get it right. It seems to have

worked, since the Reward Card is probably more innovative than the Tesco


Somerfield, of course, doesn’t have its own loyalty card yet, although

it does issue the Argos Premier Points card. Even if you do launch one

now, isn’t it a bit late in the day? After all, Sainsbury’s card hasn’t

stopped the group’s profit slide.

I can’t comment on what Somerfield may do because I’m not there yet, but

the Sainsbury’s card has shown real benefits, both to customers and in

trading terms.

What is the future for supermarket loyalty cards?

I think they are probably here to stay. The financial services tie-up

will become more integral to the proposition of a loyalty card, but the

real future is in the area of database marketing, using customer

information that loyalty cards allow you to collect.

Will supermarket direct marketing focus increasingly on the biggest

spending customers?

The key issue is not so much targeting today’s big spenders but finding

tomorrow’s big spenders. Loyalty is not just about people who spend a

lot of money, it’s about what proportion of their available grocery

spend they spend with you.

Is that a record for the number of times the word ’spend’ appears in two

sentences? Rhetorical question, no answer required.

What’s the secret of successful direct marketing, in a nutshell?

Effective customer segmentation.

Do you shop at Somerfield?

I currently shop at Sainsbury’s but also visit stores owned by


Will you be shopping at Somerfield?

Yes, I will, although not to the exclusion of anywhere else.

Jonathan Smith

Age: 30

Appearance: ’Slim, medium build, bright blue eyes’

Lives: Hampshire

Status: Married, no kids

Income band: Six figures

Occupation: Market development director at Somerfield.


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