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Good and Bad PR: Good store Waitrose, bad store Wickes

Good PR

Waitrose has received major praise and the media coverage to match this week, after revealing that it was trialing packaging-free grocery shopping one of its stores in Oxford.

The trial, which will run for 11 weeks, means that shoppers at the Botley Road store will be able to take along their own containers to fill up with products like pasta, rice and cereals, washing detergent and washing up liquid (the latter two thanks to a partnership with Ecover), ground coffee, frozen fruits  and loose, fresh fruit and veggies.

For the trial, the supermarket has also removed plastic from flowers and plants and replaced it with craft paper that is 100% recyclable and there’s even a section to get four wines and four beers on tap to take home in a reusable bottle. Now we’re talking! People (I) can suddenly stop worrying about the neighbours judging them on the number of wine bottles in their (my) recycling bins.

If shoppers don’t take their own containers, they can borrow ones from the store to return the next time they pop in, which I thought was a nice touch (albeit a very trusting one – they probably won’t get them all back).

The initiative has picked up press coverage far and wide and is a great example of how doing something for the greater good of the planet and piggybacking on the plastic crisis can work out well for a brand.

The only criticism of this that I’ve heard about so far is that some shoppers have raised concerns about the produce being exposed to the open air in case it gets contaminated or goes off more quickly, but any worries haven’t scuppered the success of the campaign so far and I fully expect that Waitrose will roll this out across more stores in the not to distant future.  

Bad PR

Everyone loves a bargain. Nobody likes realising that their bargain isn’t really a bargain at all.

Wickes learnt that the hard way this week, after the Advertising Standards Authority banned a misleading advert. The store was advertising a kitchen with prices ‘starting from £2,086’, including a discount of 50% off for anyone buying five or more units and, furthermore, installation at half price.

However, when drilling down into the deets, Which? figured out that Wickes had increased the price of these kitchens just before the sale so that the discounted prices were actually no different to what they had been before. Sneaky badgers.

It’s not uncommon for retailers to steadily increase the price of a product ahead of a big sales period to be able to give the illusion of a bigger discount when the red tags go on, but there are rules in place to prevent this from being completely unethical (albeit still a bit sneaky). Generally speaking, the product has to have been sold at the ‘was’ price for a longer period than the item is going to be sold at the ‘now’ price for, in order for the retailer to be allowed to say it is marked down by however much, such as 50% off.

Wickes had doubled the price of one unit in particular, from £159 to £318, and the ASA noted then that this was “effectively cancelling out any saving” that the discount offered. The promotion was found to be misleading and put unnecessary pressure on shoppers to buy quickly due to the multi-buy offer, when in fact the kitchen had been available at the ‘now’ price for a while beforehand.

Tut tut Wickes… I doubt that’ll be happening again in a hurry.

Written by Shannon Peerless, 10 Yetis @ShazzaYeti on Twitter. Seen any good or bad PR lately? You know what to do @10Yetis on Twitter or on email

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