David Parkin on a supermarket sweep, rebels without a clue and judge cred

THE only people who seem surprised by the Competition and Markets Authority ruling out Asda’s merger with Sainsbury’s are the people running the two supermarkets.

The CMA announced its decision yesterday saying it believed the deal to create Britain’s biggest supermarket – accounting for £1 in every £3 spent on groceries – would raise prices for consumers.

Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe, who had effectively gambled his future on getting this deal done, hit out angrily saying that the regulator was “effectively taking £1bn out of customers’ pockets”.

His Asda counterpart, Roger Burnley, was a little more measured: “”We were right to explore the potential merger with Sainsbury’s, which would have delivered great benefits for customers and supported the long term, sustainable success of our business.”

That’s the point.

Both supermarkets have been struggling to deal with the rise of the discounters like Aldi and Lidl and the steady improvements in trading at Morrisons and Tesco.

They might have dressed this deal up as a good one for shoppers but they needed it to fix the flaws in their businesses.

The CMA might have felt it wouldn’t benefit consumers, but imagine the leverage it would have given the combined group over suppliers.

I’ve seen the ruthlessness with which Asda despatches its own staff when it needs to cut costs, so suppliers would have been squeezed on prices like never before.

So what now?

Well perhaps Sainsbury’s and Asda will focus on retailing.

I suspect the effort put in to trying to get this deal done has diverted valuable management time away from the day-to-day business of running shops.

In the meantime, Morrisons, under David Potts has focused on the old mantra of “retail is detail” and started to deliver a better performance.

And Aldi and Lidl are continuing their relentless rise.

Asda’s US owner Wal-Mart may give Roger Burnley the time to deliver better performance at the Leeds-based grocer.

Whether Sainsbury’s shareholders have the patience to allow Mike Coupe to do the same remains to be seen.


Extinction Rebellion.

It sounds like something you should sprinkle around your drains to get rid of wood lice.

Instead it is campaign of civil disobedience by protesters to try and persuade politicians and business to take action over climate change,

Ten days of protests, blockades and disruption across London came to a conclusion yesterday as Extinction Rebellion ended its action in the capital.

More than 1,100 people have been arrested since campaigners first blocked traffic on April 15.

It has attracted a motley crew to its cause including wildlife broadcaster Chris Packham and Oscar-winning actress Dame Emma Thompson as well as old CND Greenham Common protesters and many for whom breaking the law is a new experience.

I’m sure Swampy was in there somewhere.

Unless he’s a commodities trader in the City of London now.

The non-violent protests have including blocking roads, people gluing themselves to trains and yesterday 26 people were arrested outside the London Stock Exchange.

I heard one of the protesters, Adam Woodhall, interviewed on the BBC.

It was the same bloke who I met several times at events in Leeds years ago when he had some kind of green energy advice business.

He was described in the media as a “business growth advisor”.

I suppose glueing yourself to the Stock Exchange is what you do when you are not busy enough in your day job.


I’VE never really been one for entering awards.

And sitting back and waiting for someone to take the initiative and give me an award hasn’t been a successful strategy either.

But that’s not to say I’m opposed to awards.

That certificate proclaiming me Highly Commended as Welsh Business Journalist of the Year 2000 has pride of place on my office wall.

There would be a photograph alongside it of me receiving a trophy on behalf of the Yorkshire Post as UK Regional Business Newspaper of the Year – if it hadn’t have been presented by Stuart Hall.

Business awards are big business.

And companies and individuals love recognition.

It is a while since I took part as either an organiser or a participant in an awards process so I was interested to be invited to be a judge for the Prolific North Awards.

Prolific North is a website that delivers news and events about the media, marketing, digital and creative sectors across the North of England.

Its annual awards, which cover 27 categories, attract a lively audience of over 1,000 people to Manchester every year.

I was flattered to be asked to be involved – until I realised it didn’t mean nodding through a few winners and joining the awards night beano over the Pennines – and it involved some real work.

Judging of the hundreds of entries begins with a digital pre-scoring process – my categories only involved 32 entries – and then the judging panel met at the Hilton Hotel on Deansgate in Manchester to determine the winners.

Judging was rigorous, good natured and enjoyable and four hours flew by as luminaries from the digital, creative and media sectors across the North of England debated the merits of leading agencies and growing firms from this thriving part of the country.

I decided to be the rebellious one and wore a tie to the judging.

Categories included best integrated agency, best B2B (business to business) campaign of the year and best broadcasting programme.

I thought they missed a trick and, given the sectors, could have added a few more categories such as best beard, best tattoo sleeve, best selfie, most frequent use of the word ‘like’ in one sentence and worst press release.

But Prolific North celebrates the media and creative sectors so there was no room for such cynical frippery.

The whole process left me positive that the North of England has some of the most creative, talented and hard working firms and individuals in the digital, media and creative sectors in the UK.

If the Northern Powerhouse can be applied to anything, then it is definitely this sector – major firms don’t need to look to London-based agencies to fulfil their needs any more.

It all left me feeling rather positive about the future.

Until I spent the entire return train journey from Manchester to Leeds standing up, and I realised that businesses can have all the talent and drive in the world, but if the infrastructure isn’t there to support their efforts then that’s a problem.


DID you enjoy the incredible weather over Easter?

When the sun shines in this country there aren’t many better places to be in the world.

The fires on Ilkley Moor in Yorkshire were a sobering reminder that not everyone can just enjoy nature without damaging it.

I sat in the garden watching red kites gliding effortlessly overhead, and listening to curlews calling hauntingly while skylarks plunged from the heavens to the meadows below singing with gay abandon.

Throw in the sun on my bonce and a glass of wine in my hand and it was enough to make your heart sing in early spring.

I’m going to go now before I start sounding too much like a Daily Mail feature.

Have a great weekend.


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