Darren Harsley, Brand Manager at GO!


When I was looking for my first job, retail seemed the obvious avenue to go down. My Mum has worked in retail throughout her career, starting in Woolworths as a teenager right through to the present day as a manager at Grape Tree, and my first part-time role whilst studying was at Morrisons as a customer assistant. Stocking up the shelves, making sure the grocery section was faced up correctly whilst being polite, helpful, and having a smile on my face for the customers.

After university, I started my path into the advertising and marketing world beginning at Artavia Advertising (part of the Accord Group) before spending 10 years at The Yorkshire Post and Reach PLC, primarily working with brands in the retail sector to ensure they were reaching the correct demographic and target audience with their multi-media campaigns, resulting in a strong ROI.

Then came March 2020.

With a wedding to pay for, and with all the uncertainty due to the obvious, I felt a second income was needed to ensure I could stay on track with my goals. More than 18 years after my first stint, I was back at Morrisons, this time working a couple of night shifts a week. Whilst the job hadn’t changed much, Morrisons very much had, as had the buying habits of their customers.


What’s changing for the supermarket?

Bright and spacious renovations, increased demand for online deliveries and new shopping habits such as click and collect were evident. Online grocery sales have hit a new high across the board and now account for 16% of all sales, up from 8% this time last year. Competition is as fierce as ever. Not only is there competition between the traditional supermarkets, Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Aldi but subscription services such as Hello Fresh and Gousto are now popular with consumers and are seeing significant growth.

Hello Fresh achieved a sales increase of 120% between July and September last year whilst Gousto achieved a year-on-year increase in total sales of 115%, as well as receiving an additional £25 million pound from their investors. My fiancée and I have received Gousto packages for the last few months as it has made our weekly meals so much easier, and as it comes with step-by-step recipe cards, actually makes cooking really simple, which is something I definitely need!

Ocado are also making big strides and achieved growth of over 36% in January 2021 alone and now has a market share of 1.7% (10th overall). As Ocado’s sales have soared in lockdown, and with a fresh partnership with Marks and Spencers, it has been suggested that they will aim to take a bigger chunk of the mainstream grocery market. So how are they doing this?


Rising to the challenge

Immediate growth won’t happen overnight, but with long-term plans, a new approach to their marketing will be key. Ocado have already re-branded changing their website and logo from green to purple to give it a clearer, distinctive identity.

The work was carried out by agency partners, Jones Knowles Ritchie, St Luke’s, Space Doctors and Ipsos and Kindling. With the growing complexity and varied changes within the grocery and retail sectors, creating relationships with the right agency partners are more important than ever. The pressure on marketing budgets will remain high on the agenda. Asda are currently in the process of reviewing their creative accounts as are a host of big-name brands due to the frustrations that 2020 brought with it.

New players are also entering the market. Getir and Weezy have recently launched their services in the capital with rapid expansion across the country planned. Both offering super-fast grocery delivery speeds of 10/15 minutes. Getir are already established in Turkey and now have 5 distribution sites in London, in areas with high population, so orders can be picked efficiently and sent out on scooters. Weezy have 4 distribution sites and plan to increase this to 40 before the end of the year. Some supermarkets offer similar services through Deliveroo but simply can’t compete with those turnaround times. Both have received big investment so it will be interesting to see how they develop and the impact they will have on the market in 2021.


Darren Harsley is Brand Manager for Grocer, Sports and more at GO! If you’d like to discuss your brand challenges or 2021 plans with Darren, you can reach him at [email protected], or get in touch with GO! here.