Captain Vigilante

RECOGNITION. Trade associations have a responsibility to promote the value of their members in addition to defending their interests, and this double duty is a defining characteristic of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors.

In addition to launching the magazine you are reading – published now on licence by Wm Reed Publishing – and creating the My Shop Is Your Shop (MSYS) campaign promoting independent retailers, another flagship activity has been re-launched.

This is the Take Home Blueprint, a mould-breaking educational activity for the wholesale/independent sector which has put millions on to the industry’s bottom line.

MSYS is in its infancy as a footfall driver. The Blueprint, once a wide-eyed infant, brought a new benchmark of professionalism which is now often taken for granted.

HISTORIC. Time tends to blur the urgency with which wholesalers and suppliers agreed that independent retailers were losing the off licence plot in 1994.

So it’s worth reminding readers that in the mid 1990s, the average local shop take home offering was heading towards disaster.

The giant retailers were beginning to use beer as a serious weapon in their price war. In contrast to the average independent, the giants were stocking brands which the consumer wanted.

In a historic agreement, the sector decided that a non-prescriptive educational process was required – and it was required quickly. It happened. The Blueprint arrived.

JUMBLE. It’s not easy to recall the average independent offering in the mid 1990s, except to think of a low-quality jumble sale.

Cider was stocked next to Guinness, cheap and discounted lagers (remember those?) were given eye-line priority display (thus returning a lot of minimum margin) and many big brands were simply absent.

Chillers were figments of someone’s imagination. The wine offering was based purely on price, reds and whites were haphazardly mixed, and you would go many a mile to find the emerging wine brands which most consumers were quaffing.

The Blueprint educational concept, based on objective non-promotional principles, immediately brought new thinking and then new cashflow.

FORGOTTEN. When initiatives such as the Blueprint become benchmarks and part of the fabric of the sector, as this has without question, an inevitable familiarity tends to break out.

People “move on”. But if the educational benefits to a vast range of suppliers, wholesalers and retailers arising from 1994 are forgotten by some, others have better memories.

Every wholesaler in the United Kingdom has been touched and benefited to varying degrees by the Blueprint and its benchmark principles.

These principles encourage the stocking of brands in consumer demand – but importantly they embrace the need for the individual independent retailer to allocate shelf space to local favourites, be they big brands or micro-brewery products.

REFRESHED. And so the Blueprint, which now embraces beers, wines, spirits, fortified wines and alcoholic ready-to-drinks, suffers the fate of all big brands – it needed to be, and has been refreshed, as they say.

Today, wholesalers in every corner of the country, are engaged with the Blueprint one way or another to varying levels of new profitability, new interfacings with their retailers and new links with suppliers both big and small.

The beauty of the Blueprint is that it embraces everybody. The smallest supplier can benefit if they become a local favourite and get their spot in the shelf space allocated to that category.

DIFFERENCE. This gives the independent the crucial point of difference. Suppliers are not faced with wholesalers who demand obscure dust collecting brands at the lowest possible quality and price. A bankrupt habit if ever there was one.

Although wholesalers remain hard-nosed negotiators, they have been weaned off old-fashioned unrewarding philosophies in take home and other categories.

Wholesalers are stocking what the consumer wants. The strategies in buying departments no longer produce six variants of white mice in the confectionery section.

Blueprint enthusiasts can legitimately claim the influence of the concept has overflowed into other categories.

On behalf of wholesalers everywhere, Vigilante says thank you to FWD and the Blueprint pioneers who made the difference in 1994.

EXEMPLARS. It was a convivial evening. Trade press editors and journalists make the best company, don’t you think?

It is inevitable on such occasions that trade hacks – a term which journos accept as a compliment – turn their conversation towards wholesaler PR departments.

The inhabitants of these departments form the crucial, highly valuable communication link between the wholesaler and the tens of thousands of trade press readers who are customers.

Vigilant hopes that these links are recognised by their employers.It is a fundamental function of the highest priority.

Were the names of PRs mentioned? It’s a bit hazy now but certain ladies named Tina, Emma, Annie and Rosie cropped up as exemplars.

SHAMED. When suppliers walk into the MBL headquarters in leafy, sunny Uxbridge, they immediately perform a sharp right turn.

This brings them face to face with the league table which immediately assumes more importance than the Premiership (or lower divisions which apparently still survive).

It’s the MBL service level naming and shaming notice board. If you are a supplier with a 100% service level you’ll be in the MBL top ten and you will enter buying heaven.

But if you are a struggling relegation supplier at the wrong end of the table, it’s woe. Magner’s was bottom of the league in mid September.

LOCAL. Everything seems to be moving in favour of the FWD My Shop Is Your Shop (MSYS) campaign – even the definition of “local” which the activity enshrined in it’s slogan “Local and proud of it”.

No names no pack drill, but a giant retailer was criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for claiming that it was selling “local” produce in Bangor when in fact it meant the whole of Wales! Mmm….

Bestway proposed the “Local and proud of it” theme for MSYS at an FWD PR Action Group (PRAG) meeting. You just can’t get more local than an independent c-store or newsagent, who with their family live and breathe the locality which they serve.

MSYS and its slogan has now been registered as a trade mark owned by FWD. Local means local, not national!

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