NEWS: Sainsbury press chief leaves as PR review begins

Sainsbury’s head of press, Michelle Lewis, is to quit the supermarket giant at the end of the month.

Sainsbury’s head of press, Michelle Lewis, is to quit the supermarket

giant at the end of the month.

Lewis, who heads a department of four, is returning to her native New

Zealand after four years in Sainsbury’s 25-strong communications


Her departure will coincide with the implementation of a review

commissioned by Sainbury’s marketing director Ivor Hunt (PR Week, 4


Lewis said the staff numbers will be boosted in internal communications,

corporate affairs and local PR.

However, it is now unlikely that communications and marketing will merge

due to the arrival of new marketing director Kevin McCarten next year.

Sainsbury is advertising internally for a replacement for Lewis to

handle media relations, crisis management and communications strategy.

The job will also now include media training for Sainsbury’s employees.

The store is currently building a sound-proofed media training studio

for use in interviews.

Sainsbury’s disappointing financial results last week led chairman David

Sainsbury to reflect that the store did not communicate its initiatives

‘as well as we would have liked’.

Lewis said: ‘I think the blame lies with communications in the broader

sense including advertising, design, marketing and customer services.’

She said Sainsbury’s regular customers understood Sainsbury’s ‘core

values’ but communication ‘was not as convincing with occasional


In addition, Sainsbury’s has made a series of PR blunders. Earlier this

year David Sainsbury dismissed rival Tesco’s loyalty scheme as a

marketing gimmick akin to ‘electronic Green Shield stamps’, but

Sainsbury later expanded its Saver Card scheme to 200 stores.

The store was also advised by the ITC to change its TV adverts when

customers complained it was not keeping its promise to open a checkout

every time a queue formed.

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