Marketers on the frontline to win back retailers' trust

I’ve been sent more than 100 horse-meat related jokes this week, including ‘Findus lasagne contains horse meat? I’d check the spaghetti bologneighs as well’ and ‘Frozen meat importers should face more hurdles shocker’.

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Apologies to the original authors, but it’s not entirely clear to me who is responsible for these particular jokes. It is, however, clear that the food chain scandal in which meat products were contaminated with horse flesh, is not going away quietly. We are galloping (sorry) into another month of intense scrutiny for food producers and retailers.

This week, Tesco admitted its value range of spaghetti bolognese contains more than 60 per cent horsemeat despite being sold as a beef product. This latest admission follows weeks of product withdrawals by brands including Findus, Burger King and Aldi. And more revelations are expected.

The Food Standards Agency has ordered UK suppliers and retailers to undertake DNA tests on their meat and supply the results by Friday. But will retailers be able to recover consumer trust? Our news story on page 5 suggests they are already experiencing a massive slump in reputation.

One supermarket marketer confided to me this week that while his brand is putting forth an outwardly calm demeanour, there is great internal concern. Supermarkets rely on their suppliers to meet the FSA standards, he says, but any failures to do this will haunt the retail brands for years.

“You can’t buy or sell trust,” he explains. “It takes years to build up trust but seconds to destroy.” Regardless of any legal action retailers might take against affected suppliers, the fragile nature of consumer trust means that the store brands may be feeling repercussions for decades to come.

In this light, our cover story on the future of the high street (page 14) is more relevant than ever. We try to work out what future shoppers may expect to see in their local area. Trust will, of course, be key to which shops remain strong and profitable on the high street, but we also look at new and emerging areas, such as how technology and data will affect the retail experience.

This focus on data and technology is well timed as we held our Data Strategy Awards this week. Thank you to everyone who entered, judged or attended.It was a brilliant evening; not only did we receive record numbers of entries, we also had record attendance on the Casino Royale-themed evening, with the roulette tables full late into the night. You can see the winners here.

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