A symbol of the times

The IGD reports that the number of symbol retailers has increased by 2% and non-affiliated independents trading is down by 5% when compared to 2008, making symbols the fastest growing sector within convenience.

Each year him! speaks to 3,500 independent retailers while they are shopping at cash and carries throughout the UK. Of those we spoke to 49% of retailers shopping at the cash and carry class themselves as a convenience store, 21% as a CTN. And of those retailers who spoke to him!, 81% stated that they were an unaffiliated independent retailer. Details of which symbol or fascia group the other 19% belong to are given in the table on the right.

During these tough times it has become increasingly difficult for independent retailers to make ends meet especially the retailers who have a limited offer and range. Now more than ever these retailers will be looking to wholesalers for a helping hand. This offers wholesalers with symbol fascias a big opportunity to sign up new members.

Becoming a symbol retailer offers a multitude of benefits. Symbol groups offer various forms of support including training, brand, guidelines and advice. By becoming a symbol group member independents will undoubtedly improve their fresh and chilled offering which means they then become less dependent on the newsagent mission, and move to a focus on top-up and even grocery shopping, which will ultimately mean a higher basket spend and visit frequency from customers.

him!’s Convenience Tracking Programme (we speak to 28,000 convenience store customers across the industry) shows that symbol stores outperform the rest of the industry in a number of criteria.

For example, symbols have the highest customer visit frequency across the industry. Customers rate the symbols the highest for appearance of store, finding products easily, availability of products, speed of service, staff friendliness, and value for money. Symbols also have the lowest amount of failed purchases where customers said that they failed to buy an intended item.

Much more symbol customers noticed external signs and communication, than any other store. Symbol customers are also more likely to say that they have received a leaflet through the door, proving that symbols are proactive in promoting a store and range. Symbol customers also told him! that they were likely to use a loyalty card if it was offered in store.

Symbols also have the highest amount of customers who say that staff said thank you, asked if they found everything they were looking for and informed customers about a promotion in store. Most customers think that the stores are involved in local community events.

But becoming part of a symbol group does mean a compromise by the retailer to adopt the rules, regulations and purchasing contracts, compared to having the complete freedom when operating as a truly independent retailer.

However independent retailers tell him! that they look to the wholesalers for advice and support on how they can grow their business. Forty three per cent of independent retailers tell him! that they want to receive point of sale, range advice, independent planograms, list of top selling lines and other ways on how to increase sales information through the cash and carry. Everything that a symbol group can offer its members.

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