Retailers want better promotions

HIM’s Cash Carry Retailer Tracking Programme, which has just interviewed 3,100 retailers across branches of all the major cash and carry operators in the UK, suggests a number of retailers’ needs are not being satisfied by operators.

When asked to name the areas they would like to see their cash and carry improve in, retailers put “better promotions” at the top of the list, followed by “improved product availability” and “better customer service”.

However, giving retailers what they want in each of these areas, or appearing to, is not so simple. For instance:

l Better promotions – are there too many products on promotion at any one time, creating marketing clutter and retailer confusion? Are tertiary lines being pushed on to retailers? Are channel promotions supplier pushed rather than retailer or shopper pulled? Remember – only 10% of shoppers in independent c-stores, forecourts and CTNs buy promotions so we may need to see fewer, bigger, better-executed promotions.

l Product availability – we continue to see that retailers cite “out-of-stock” for the majority of their failed purchases. In the coming months we’ll find out whether “the availability problem” is perception or reality, and highlight initiatives operators working in conjunction with suppliers can implement to improve the reality, or change the perception.

l Better customer service can involve anything from speed of service at check-outs (65% of retailers are at the cash and carry to “top-up” so speed will be a top priority for them) to “helping me improve sales in my business”. Forty four per cent of retailers say they would be interested in ordering products over the internet or telephone for collection later in the day.

The internet is a fast growing communication mode which the cash and carry wholesale channel may not be exploiting to its full potential. Sixty three per cent of retailers say they have access to the internet, but most cash and carry operator websites contain little more than information on price promotions. This appears to be a missed opportunity.

The internet could be used at the very least to communicate availability and customer service pledges (“all payment transactions will take less than five minutes, guaranteed”?) but websites could also be used to suggest business building advice.

Cash and carry operators should be telling their retailer customers that cash machines are a must, as is e-top-up and utility payment, an in-store bakery to exploit the huge food-on-the-move opportunity, EPOS for better sales management, that 50% of UK consumers think c-stores should sell locally sourced products, that a credible gifting range for distress last minute shoppers will bring in more shoppers, that fresh investment will grow their sales, why drop shipment is a viable solution, why beer and white wine must be chilled because 80% of shoppers will start drinking it within an hour of purchase, that Post Office services are a must, that home office equipment is a hugely untapped opportunity … and so on.

The cash and carry operator may not stand to get a direct financial return on providing this partnership advice to retailers, but operators need to look beyond their immediate short-term gains to ensure the long-term survival of their customers.

Operators may also want to consider is becoming the back-up chiller for retailers’ soft drinks, wine and beer. A quarter of retailers would like to buy ready-chilled soft drinks from their cash and carry, and 16% would like to buy ready-chilled beer. We’ve already seen that most visits to cash and carries are to “top-up”. Retailers are increasing ranges in most categories and stock-room space is tight. Retailers are looking to buy ready-to-sell or ready-to-serve drinks – something supermarkets generally don’t offer.

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