How to improve C Cs for 2007

It has reached that time when we reflect back on the year just gone, and the year ahead. For cash and carries it has been a period of change and fierce competition. Almost half of all visits to cash and carries are now made by caterers rather than retailers, and supermarkets are now used regularly by 20% of independent retailers as a source for products to re-sell in their stores.

With sales through delivered wholesalers expected to grow faster than sales through cash and carries and competition mounting, cash and carries need to respond to the changing needs of customers – and more importantly, shoppers. All shopping is increasingly about “convenience” (time, nearness, location, opening hours, speed, ease, comfort) – whatever the channel.

Only 72% of retailers say they feel valued as a customer by their main cash and carry chain. Customer service lies at the very heart of what cash and carry shopping should all be about. So thinking about 2007, I wonder what would happen if…

l Express check-outs were introduced in cash and carries like in supermarkets? Speed of service ratings are only 7.4/10 on average?

l Top-up zones were introduced in cash and carries? 70% of retailers in a cash and carries say they’re on a “top-up” trip (mission)?

l Cash and carries rolled out different ordering options – 24% of retailers would find it useful to order products from their cash and carry over the internet and collect the product later?

l Category signage was clear, bold and succinct?

l Profit on return information was easy to read and understand?

l Top selling SKUs in each category were clearly highlighted to aid product selection?

l The top three cross purchases with every category in a typical c-store were highlighted to aid retailers’ store layouts?

l Operators guaranteed the availability of the top 5 lines in the top 10 categories? We calculate independent retailers are losing pound;750m each year in lost sales due to poor availability in their stores.

l Each week a different supplier or service provider had a stand in branches to engage with depot staff and retailers to help grow everyone’s sales? Banks, mortgage lenders, business advisors, legal experts, shop-fitters could all be involved.

l We knew the true on-shelf accessible availability of key SKUs 24/7?

l The importance of fresh and the benefits of drop-shipment were rammed home to retailers?

l Leaflets were used to communicate more than just price deals? Sixty per cent of retailers appreciate and read leaflets… but is the trade missing a great opportunity to engage with retailers on issues other than price via this media?

l Competing suppliers could collaborate like BWS suppliers have done to agree ranges and planograms in all categories?

l Cash and carry operators push premium products at key times of the year (e.g. Christmas) encouraging their retailers to do the same?

l Cash and carry operators developed an excellent range of gifting products to exploit the almost continual run of seasons and events through the year.

Wouldn’t that be great customer service? And what would the impact be? More loyalty? Less promiscuity? More frequent visits? Higher customer satisfaction? More sales? More profits?

Key to all this is that the various industry stakeholders (wholesalers, suppliers, trade associations) collaborate by focusing on external factors like customers and sales more than internal industry issues. The convenience industry is growing at twice the rate per annum than the supermarket industry. 2007 is the year for the cash and carry industry to show that it can keep ahead of developments. As the saying goes: “If the change going on outside your business is greater than the change going on inside your Features > Business, you’re going out of business.”

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