Captain Vigilante

COVET. Shaken by headlines following a shambolic annual meeting at which shareholders baulked at even higher cash awards to top directors, Tesco must wish it could attract the genuinely caring images won by the My Shop Is Your Shop campaign.

Cuttings show how local media warmed to National Independents’ Week informing readers of the genuine community links enjoyed by smiling local retailers – in contrast to the ugly raised voices of shareholders snarling at Tesco’s excessive remuneration for directors.

Anti-poverty lobbies also raised their voices against low pay and poor conditions for African farm workers supplying Tesco’s fruit. Rotten timing for Tesco, which desperately wants to impress the Competition Commission (CC) favourably.

SAVAGED. Tesco, nor any of the big corporates, can claim that their shops are owned by the people who run them and therefore any claim to the MSYS theme of “local and proud of it” would indeed ring hollow.

Fiona Bruce savaged the Big Four claims to be green and caring with her recent BBC2 programme just as MSYS and National Independents’ Week was attracting such favourable “community” comment in local media.

There was a huge gulf between, for example, the warm headlines won by Keystore independent Bob Gibson, in Basingstoke, with his big family NIW street party and Fiona’s exposure of the cynical basis of the giants’ absurd claims to be “caring”.

Tesco and its mates are very successful. Why not just stick to being successful. Why bother making eco-caring and other socio-beneficial claims through which hacks can drive a coach and horses?

CARBON. When Fiona touched on carbon footprints, she inadvertently gave MSYS and local independents a big advantage over the giant retailers.

Carbon issues on the distribution side may be about equal in getting products from the farm to the factory to the small shop or to the superstore.

But shoppers rarely need to get into a car to shop at the local independent c-store or newsagent.

MSYS will in future encourage the family business to promote their nil-carbon credentials – you can walk to the local store.

These stores were made for walking …

TRADING. With involvement by retailers, wholesalers and suppliers reaching record levels for National Independents’ Week 07, the organisers face a big challenge.

About two thirds of independent retailers acknowledge the fact (Convenience Store research May 07) that the My Shop Is Your Shop campaign has been inspirational.

Thousands of independents were involved in NIW in one way or another in June. More than 65 % of the sector was mobilised – an unprecedented platform for future generic footfall driving activity.

PROMOTER. We have all seen the intensive trade press coverage of the NIW activity – happy retailers in loud yellow T-shirts proclaiming they are local and proud of it.

The challenge facing the MSYS campaign is this – how can activists increase the speed at which MSYS and NIW are impacting on consumers and those retailers with whom the penny has not yet dropped?

MSYS is not a charity. It is not anti-Tesco. It is a promoter.

FOOTFALL. MSYS alone will not increase footfall in local stores. But as part of the marketing mix it is a powerful and positive trade and consumer motivator.

Barnstaple retailer Lesley Brown, in whose store Booker boss Charles Wilson worked for a few hours during NIW, was asked by the people who run the Cromhall Village Shop Post Office, in Gloucestershire, for tips on NIW.

Lesley sent them a lot of ideas. And now Cynthia Davies, who runs the community Cromhall shop, has reported on a successful NIW with local paper coverage and a commitment to NIW 08.

INVESTMENT. MSYS needs more investment. It has proved it works. Cynthia Davies, could not put it more succinctly when she was quoted in the local paper report on her NIW activity. “The future survival of this and every independent store in the country is in the hands of the local community.”

As successful and as professional as they are, the giant corporations repeat the old mantra that the customer is king.

MSYS brings a new message to wholesalers and the independents they supply. It is this. Community is king.

VICTIM. In 2003, the former hierarchy at the Office of Fair Trading nodded through the acquisition of Adminstore and T S by Tesco, thus starting the clock ticking towards the inevitable current CC probe.

This gave rise to what the OFT acknowledged to be The Eastbourne Effect (TEE). Yes, they acknowledged it but then ignored it!

TEE described how Tesco would dominate a massive part of the town because it would have a 24-hour superstore, a One Stop and a Tesco Express all within a fair stone’s throw of each other.

TEE has now claimed a giant victim – a Co-op owned Alldays nearby which has closed because it just could not compete.

This store was once a Spar. It was a happy shop where the staff welcomed customers with a little chat and a warm smile – aspects of trading that are conspicuously absent in the clinical Tesco Express.

It just goes to show that not even the giant Co-op can defend its trade when Sir Terry puts on the squeeze.

CHALLENGE. But the Tesco Express has a challenger for its beers, wines and spirits trade in the shape of a Bargain Booze section in the old-established newsagent’s store just opposite.

In addition to lots of decent prices on pop and snacks, the usual Bargain Booze offers – Stella (6 for pound;5), Carling (24x 440 ml for pound;13), Carlsberg Export (20 bottle full case pound;9.99), Foster’s (24 cans pound;13.99) for July 10 to 23 – are being promoted heavily by the fearless independent.

This puts a new twist on TEE. If Alldays could not stand the heat in the Tesco kitchen, can the independent newsagent with added alcohol give the local community the point of difference which it sorely needs?

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