WH Smith Munch – A brand with fake values is a brand that is destined to fail

I was at east Midlands Airport recently and they have something of a captive market for their meal deals with both Superdrug and WH smith offering meal deals for £3.99. On the surface this looks like great value.

WH Smith is a brand that started 224 years ago in 1792 in London and has 1,351 outlets with 615 on the high street and 736 travel outlets in airports and stations. It turned over nearly £1.2 BILLION in 2015 and employs 14,500 people.

So with all of these years of experience, heritage and the sheer number of interested parties, you’d think they would understand the concept of authentic brand values. Built on this history and surviving the worst of the high street recessions they really ought to know better.

But they don’t. They have an own brand product in store called ‘Munch’ which is entirely fake.

WH Smith Munch Sandwich a brand with totally fake values
WH Smith Munch Sandwich a brand with totally fake values

Munch, which is a range of sandwiches and wraps, tells you you can ‘Grab a bite of the good stuff’. A pretty compelling proposition for food on the go. They back this up with a brand support statement that says ‘Gloriously delicious food-to-go. So irresistible everyone wants to get their paws on it! Satisfies even the wildest of appetites…’

WH Smith Munch Sandwiches with a brand statement that is totally fabricated
WH Smith Munch Sandwiches with a brand statement that is totally fabricated

But the sandwich was disgusting. I didn’t want more, I never want to eat it again, I never want to eat anything for sale in WH Smith. I didn’t even want to finish the sandwich. Eating it, made me feel ill and dirty. Eggshell in the egg mayo didn’t help and even the bread was stale and unnatural. So I had to have look at the ingredients.

This was a total shock. I was genuinely horrified with what it contained and it bore no relation to the brand values all over the packaging whatsoever.

WH Smith Munch Sandwich - The ingredients 100% horrible with an added of 18% of total shit
WH Smith Munch Sandwich – The ingredients 100% horrible with an added of 18% of total shit

Even trying to ignore the fact that claimed ingredients added up to 118% (It must be all the shit they have piled in to make it taste less natural and healthy) the list was not all all irresistible. In fact it was entirely resistible.

I won’t be eating ‘Munch’ again. I’d suspect that if this is how WH Smith run their business, they are in trouble. I’ve talked about Tesco in the past and the start of their problems being with the quality of their products, which all came true. Any brand that says one things and delivers another like Abercrombie and Fitch will be found out soon enough. WH Smith are that brand.

I’m no whistle blower, but if I had any money invested in WH Smith, I’d get it out fast. This is a brand heading for the gutter.

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Waterstones v. Waterstones.com – I know the difference

I just went out to buy two copies of a book for my wife and her Mum and have learnt a lot about online/offline pricing in my little jaunt around the city.

Firstly there are only two real places you can buy a new book (other than the discount end of line retailers) and that is at Waterstones or WH Smith – who are a retailer of sorts.

Before I went out, I looked on Amazon for  target price. £7.49. Now that sounds like good value to me. £5.50 off list price but none in stock and my customers want this book NOW!

The Clean and Lean Diet 14 Days to Your Best-ever Body from Amazon.co.uk
The Clean and Lean Diet 14 Days to Your Best-ever Body from Amazon.co.uk

So it was off to WH Smith, the confused retailer that seems to have ‘buy one get one half price’ on almost everything. Isn’t that what Thresher did before they went bust too? Well, they had the book in stock, but only one of them, so the deal wasn’t that effective. They had a price of £8.44 online. If I had managed to buy the two of them in the store each book would have cost £9.75, so not far off a decent price.

The Clean and Lean Diet 14 Days to Your Best-ever Body - from WHSmith.co.uk
The Clean and Lean Diet 14 Days to Your Best-ever Body - from WHSmith.co.uk

And then onto Waterstones. The only decent sized book store in Nottingham. I was greeted by a friendly young man as I entered and asked him where on the four floors I would find this book. He confirmed they had five in stock at the full price of £12.99 on the third floor.

So I asked the kller questions.

Why could I buy the same book from them online for much less?

The Clean and Lean Diet 14 Days to Your Best ever Body from Waterstones.com
The Clean and Lean Diet 14 Days to Your Best ever Body from Waterstones.com

The answer?

Apparently, and I quote “Because they’re on the Internet, they don’t have the overheads we do.”

Oh, that’s it then, they’re not part of the same group or anything simple, or even based on exactly the same central distribution depot.

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago saying that their new logo was a bit silly and pointless, but did give them the get out clause that a new logo can be worthwhile if it marks a change in behaviour.

You judge for yourself whether this traditional retailer is behaving any different now it has an online presence, or if it is still making the same mistakes as Borders and all the other smaller book stores that have folded before them.

If you offer the same price online and offline (like Tesco and Asda and Sainsbury’s and everyone else with any retailing skill does) you may find that people still buy from your stores rather than looking at you as a showroom or a place of last resort.