Captain Vigilante


. Some natives are growing restless in the independent retail marketplace where many shops are doing OK but some are not. Reports reach this column that retailers complained to one of our major wholesalers about a Foster’s offer – an 8x440ml pack to sell at pound;5.50 that would give the retailer a margin of just 5%.

Independents are finding it difficult to see the total picture, it is said, because they are cherry picking offers at random. Some will carry small margins, but others will make an acceptable profit. Are wholesalers taking it for granted that their customers understand that a “mix” of volume offers and standard pricing is what is required in the crunch?

Another source of complaint was a deal on two litre Coca-Cola with two bottles flashed to sell at pound;2.30. A correspondent says this would return the princely cash return of one penny. Can this be right?


. As forecast here, the Competition Commission has finally been forced to ask the Department for Features > Business, Innovation and Skills to intervene after the four giant multiple retailers refused to agree to the appointment of an Ombudsman who would prevent the said Big Four from bullying suppliers.

Anyway, the Government will send the issue to the OFT to sort out and that means another delay of two years.

Meanwhile, the silence of the suppliers on the Ombudsman issue is deafening. Not a word from the FDF. Are they not fussed? And see the paragraphs on pork pies below.

== WASTE ==

. This is the big new agenda item for the Government (Gordon Brown was on the case at G8) and the media as food which costs the average UK family pound;600 a year is binned – over 60% of it untouched.

‘Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal’, a new book by Tristram Stuart (Penguin pound;9.99), is an angry forensic exposure of how manufacturers, supermarkets, independent shops and consumers discard enough food to feed the world’s hungry three times over.

It is truly shocking that local shops are worse offenders, proportionately, than the giant superstores. Poor ordering procedures, stock control and staff disciplines result in huge amounts of back-of-store waste – with millions in profits down the drain.

Reviewers are praising this book as one which will make food waste utterly unacceptable. This waste means some sector profits are being carted off to landfill. We should be outraged.

Local shops have a huge front-of-store part to play. They can save money for families and increase their turnover by encouraging consumers to control their food spend by buying for today and tomorrow, avoiding over-buying which leads to the dustbin.

== BEIRUT ==

. Our secondary shopping road is changing from an interesting array of decent shops, with variety and choice and some eccentric owners to a scene that has been described as ‘commercial Beirut’.

Shattered windows decorate empty shops, every takeaway (and there are a lot) is offering deals ranging from a pizza delivered for 99p, 20% discounts off Chinese dishes, an Indian meal for two delivered for pound;7.99 and so on.

Pubs fight for business. Beer means war here – a sign offering a pint for pound;2.75 has been met with one at pound;2.20. The local independent shop meanwhile offers four pints for pound;4. A respectable pub continues to plough on at pound;3.20 a pint – but for how long?

The chippie is surviving but restaurants are hard pressed. Deals abound. An American diner hit by the crunch has closed and a Spanish tapas bar taken its place.

If this is a reflection of the national picture, it will be debated no doubt in October at Catersummit, an event which has evolved into a must-attend for thinking people in foodservice.


. On our side of the fence we tend to believe that everyone is anti-Tesco. But Tesco has many supplier supporters who enjoy stable relationships. They will not admit this of course in the presence of wholesalers.

The Dickinson Morris brand is pork pie heaven. It’s made by Samworth Brothers, the Melton Mowbray family business which also owns Ginsters. Tesco is a huge own label customer.

Brian Stein, chief executive, rejects criticism of this dependence.

“Tesco is incredibly efficient and more loyal to its supply base than many other retailers. People get it wrong when they say Tesco is the big bad wolf,” he says. So why should Tesco fear the appointment of an Ombudsman?

== OOPS ==

. Marketing is an art form. There are banana skins to be avoided – and marketing will do this for you. So when a colourful leaflet lands on the mat promoting a range of titled pizza deals delivered to your door, and one is headlined ‘Home Alone for pound;9.95′, it makes you think.

Who would phone for the meal announcing that they were sadly home alone?


. Work this one out. Sainsbury’s says it is ahead of everybody in the race to claim the Greenest Superstore crown by using a “kinetic road plate” in its Gloucester car park. This plate, when driven over by customers’ cars, produces enough energy to drive the check-outs.

But hold! What about the CO2 emissions produced by those customers driving – in some cases more than an hour there and back – to the store to clang the plate?

The plate idea was headlined in the national media and so became an invitation to car owners to climb into their vehicles and emit CO2 to their hearts content.

Will folk in Gloucester and environs see through this? If they walk and shop locally they will not produce any CO2. What is the more attractive Green proposition – an emission-clouded drive to this store contributing to climate change and then feeling better about it by clobbering that plate, or simply ditching the car in favour of a CO2-free walk to think global and shop local?

== STAR ==

. When Vigilante named two cash and carry people praised by an independent retailer, saying how nice and helpful they were whenever she asked for their advice or guidance, a member of the delivered wholesaling sector asked why this discrimination against the people on the road, motoring many miles to call on shops.

Cash and carry staff, he said, do not have to put up with road rage, motorway chaos causing delays and late returns to a microwave re-heated dinner, parking wardens and so on.

Fortuitously, a retailer in a conversation about something else came up with a nomination for a real star, motoring from store to store in all weathers and under all sorts of difficulties and yet delivering very high standards of courteous and efficient help in a friendly way making her store very successful. His name is Adrian Nicholls, of Blakemore’s.

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