Captain Vigilante

EXCLUSIVE. First, a world exclusive. Vigilante may hereby be exposing a plot with political resonances following sinister happenings in London.

Lidl – growing more popular by the minute in our neck of the woods – has an own label 40% vodka under the name of Putinoff. It sells for pound;6.99 for 500ml.

Readers will be familiar with cries of Ronaldo-off (anonymous in the FA Cup final blissfully won by Chelsea to the nation’s joy ) or Blair-off, but if Lidl has a Russian dissident in the marketing department he’d better watch out!

Expect Jon Snow to follow this story up. You read it first here.

PRAG. This is the body, driving MSYS, which had the courage to bring back to our streets in the name of independent retailers a valuable part of our heritage – the street party.

The acronym for the FWD PR Action Group, this is the only grouping of suppliers, wholesalers and retailers currently engaged with the generic ideal of MSYS.

PRAG did not flinch when the revival of the street party was suggested for NIW by PR guru Alan Twigg. Out-of the-box thinkers rarely flinch, do they?

In Edwardian times street parties came of age. Then we had the Second World War and various monarchic happenings as an excuse for one.

But street parties – if you have the right location – fit the celebrations of independents like a glove. People mix, talk, get acquainted, kids spill jelly…. it’s community.

PARFETTS. There is a sense of community in The Parfett Story, by Alan Parfett, recently published. But it’s the community of wholesalers and retailers.

The Parfett family deliberately chose the family name – instead of perhaps County Cash Carry – because they believed, rightly, that family retail businesses would relate to a family wholesale business.

But there are other insights. Parfetts is one of the few wholesalers not involved in delivered and Alan says he thinks the company is right to concentrate only on traditional cash and carry.

Every member of the family has been involved in the business – including several grandchildren during school holidays this year. No rest for suppliers for generations, then.

PRUDENCE. Alan Parfett goes on to explain financial strategy. We hear a lot about sale and leaseback and other wheezes but Parfetts are wedded to (old fashioned?) pay-by-cash and buy-the-freehold principles.

Costs have been kept down by the purchase of freeholds and “from the beginning my aim was that we would follow our domestic policy of paying cash for our needs and this has been achieved”.

Allowing for the potential loss of interest from having company money invested in freeholds rather than cash, Parfetts save pound;1m a year “theoretically”. But their competitive offering is not theoretical.

DEFENCE. It’s a very good read. For example, Parfetts owns a shop. Yes it does. It bought a store in New Mills before Tesco could get its hands on it. It’s in the book.

The company did not have any customers in the immediate area – which would have prohibited the acquisition – and from the beginning Parfetts has typically kept customers advised of the development.

Refurbishment work is due for completion any day. Parfetts will use the shop to find out at first hand about the problems facing cash and carry customers and how to overcome them.

Then, says Alan, “we will have to decide whether we will set up a separate retail operation”.

3663. Does anyone remember the derivation of the numerical moniker for the company which achieved a five-page editorial endorsement (free) in The Independent on May 10?

Answers on a postcard to Vigilante please but not before you have read this glowing and profusely illustrated account of the growth of 3663 under Fred Barnes’ leadership.

The headline “The company that ate Britain” was tabloidesque. But the meat of the story described how 3663 – a “behemoth” – has 30,000 customers with 50,000 outlets including the Queen.

Reporter Guy Adams said 3663 (or Fred Barnes) influenced eating habits “as much as Gordon, Nigella, Jamie and Delia combined”. Powerful stuff.

RE-USABLE. You could say that an industry worth pound;17bn a year which did not have a consumer PR programme was dysfunctional. But the My Shop Is Your shop campaign has redressed this.

How far can MSYS go to get into the soft underbelly of the British consumer – that part which is vulnerable to environmental concerns now being exploited so expertly by the giants?

MSYS campaigners recently debated the issue of plastic bags and their hoped-for demise in favour of reusable carriers – or bags for life.

If wholesalers put their orders through a central buying point for a bag with a cool design – there’s a ban on calling it a Lifestyle bag – free of logos and fascia names, then the sector could be in business.

Would independents buy them? Modbury in Devon is now famous as the plastic-bag-free town of Britain and independents have been the leaders in achieving this commendable state of affairs. Worth a punt?

SAVED. After the Big Food Group disasters, Booker people must be warmly congratulated on their recovery programme and relieved that they’ve got City approval once again.

June 4 was the date on which trading on the AIM was due to start following Booker’s return to the stock market by reversing into Blueheath.

City analysts said they now regarded Booker to be “stable and off the danger list”. Taken private and turned round under the ownership of Baugur, Booker says it is set to move to another level.

Booker’s competitors should save their energy, calm down and loosen up – after this ingenious move into Blueheath, Booker’s next acquisition could be just as innovative.

DEMONISING. It’s no good repeatedly setting Tesco up as a demon. The CC has said that in its current review it will not countenance demonisation (lovely word) of one company.

That’s why everyone’s favourite PR girl, Lucy Neville-Rolfe (apparently not a reader of mine) failed to rise to the bait when The Daily Telegraph, formerly the Tescograph, exposed the CD “scam”.

Tesco, it reported, sends CDs and DVDs ordered on line on a round journey of 1,400 miles to fulfil the order. This saves the usual 17.5% VAT or pound;1.56 on average, but carbon is emitted.

CDs are packed in addressed envelopes in a Greenford warehouse, trucked 700 miles to Zurich (outside the EU) where Swiss people unpack the crate and “post” the envelopes in bulk back to the UK.

If wholesalers could make savings like this on, say, boxes of chocolates, would they do it? Answers on a postcard please…..

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