Captain Vigilante

BOOKED. Sector historians are probing the records to establish whether Charles Wilson, chief at Booker Cash Carry, is the first wholesaler CEO to volunteer to work behind the counter at one of his customer’s shops.

He will work during National Independents’ Week at the store in Barnstaple, north Devon, owned by Lesley and Bill Brown.

He offered his services to Lesley at the FWD annual conference after she had challenged top wholesalers and suppliers to help out during NIW. Senior people from competing wholesalers are following his example.

Will Charles Wilson be asked to pop down to the local Booker branch to bring back urgently needed goods to meet NIW demand at the shop?

APPLAUSE. If a clapometer had been available, Lesley would have scored top marks judging by the loud and long acclaim with which conference delegates applauded her presentation on the My Shop Is Your Shop (MSYS) campaign.

MSYS, she said, had brought to an end a steady decline in the shop’s takings because the concept had given her and her staff the confidence to become fully involved in the local community.

There are thousands of retailers just like Lesley who require only a gentle nudge to attract more sales from the people who live close to the shop.

As Lesley said, it’s not rocket science but it works. MSYS is indispensable.

RECOVERY. Charles Wilson told delegates at the FWD conference about the remarkable recovery he was leading at Booker.

Wilson does not attempt to obscure the decline at Booker prior to his introduction as the new chief. From the figures he flashed on screen the company appeared to be in disarray up to September 2005.

But keeping debt under control, keeping things simple, identifying customers’ needs and meeting them is best practice in wholesaling and that’s what’s happening at Wellingborough.

These things are old fashioned, conventional, traditional. No fancy wheezes here. It’s real, it works and it’s good for the sector.

WATERSTONE’S. Meanwhile, former Booker managing director Gerry Johnson, who left on Wilson’s arrival, is achieving coverage in the national press as he seeks to put Waterstone’s on a recovery course. He is competing with independent bookshops and Tesco and the on-line booksellers.

Gerry said in The Guardian of April 14 that “there is a very healthy market for small bookstores serving local communities”.

This seems to ring a MSYS type of bell? In Sir Terry Leahy style, Gerry says he will open stores “but they will typically be smaller and serving local communities”. Waterstone’s Express?

Bookish people say Tesco supermarkets now stock 200 best sellers which readers are buying with their groceries. It’s a thriller in the book market. How will it end?

LUCID. Everyone’s favourite PR girl, Lucy Neville-Rolfe, is burning more midnight oil than ever trying to protect Sir Terry from the slings and arrows of ACS, cynical hacks and desperate housewives. The latter are those who say they hate Tesco but continue to spend there.

Are wholesalers missing a trick in the PR stakes? Where is the sector’s equivalent of Mr. Nice Guy, who Lucy placed in The Daily Tescograph of April 7?

Projecting an image of modesty as the “anonymous man who transformed the High Street”. Sir Terry was depicted as “looking like a greengrocer” in an off-the-peg John Lewis suit and metal-framed Boots specs.

Unfair to greengrocers?

Price, said the article, was the big issue at Tesco. Sir Terry is not a food snob and he turns off lights at home because he is stingy.

So does Vigilante.

HUMBLE. The article described Sir Terry’s humble start in life in a Liverpool pre-fab and his professional grasp of the fundamentals which make shoppers want to shop at Tesco.

Supermarkets, he said in the piece, have been “fantastically liberating for women….who now have little time to spend two hours chatting to the grocer and the butcher…”

The article catalogued every eco-friendly policy announced by Sir Terry in Lucy’s fight-back campaign against the lobbies which seek to cut Tesco down to size. Implying a caring nature, Lucy said that politicians were seeking to lure him into running the NHS.

Vigilante now launches his campaign to get Sir Terry out of Tesco and appointed as head of the NHS as a matter of urgency.

Then we would get the genuine NHS just as it was envisaged by Nye Bevan in 1948. Guaranteed.

IRREPRESSIBLE. In 2005, when it was bought by Baugur, Malcolm Walker famously returned to the chief exec’s chair at Iceland. He has turned the business round from its decline as part of former Big Food Group, which included Booker, under Bill Grimsey.

Now Walker has participated in a pound;290m payout – after the refinancing of the chain – as a member of the consortium which bought Iceland. Iceland shareholders have now taken payments worth many times their original investment.

The chain has enjoyed a strong year – turnover soared from pound;1.48bn to pound;1.6bn.

Walker received the Quote of the Day accolade in The Times business section. “Thanks to Mr Grimsey for giving me the chance to do so well,” is the quote in question.

CASHBACK. Millions of readers of the Daily Mirror and the Daily Record (Scotland) will see coupons worth pound;4.25 off some of the biggest brands in the marketplace on June lst, just ahead of NIW (June 4).

This is the biggest cash sum ever offered to shoppers in a generic grocery market promotion.

News stockists – increasingly they are grocers too – will be handing pound;4.25 to every Mirror and Record buyer with a message saying “shop independent”.

It’s powerful. Professionals understand that the redemption rate will be no more and no less than other coupon promotions.

But every news retailer should point out the promotion to his customers and make them aware of it, then share the feelgood factor it will induce.

Feelgood – it’s so important in this market. Ask Lucy!

CHAMPIONs. In more than one third of all cash and carry depots a member of staff will wear a MSYS T-shirt emblazoned with the word CHAMPION.

This T-shirt will identify the trained staff member who will enthuse retailers about National Independents’ Week which begins on June 4.

Involvement by independents with their community, the basis of MSYS, will increase sales. This is a proven fact.

If the IGD forecast of unappetising future C C growth is correct, MSYS will become (like the Take Home Blueprint) a fundamental of C C marketing.

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