Captain Vigilante

BLUEPRINT. There will follow a few paragraphs about the Take Home Blueprint, the biggest single success story in recent history of how wholesalers work for, and help, retailers in a practical way. If this subject tends to bring on a yawn, well why not skip a few paras? The reason for these meanderings is the interest in the Blueprint idea by other categories. And why not? If you are a supplier in a non-alcoholic market, wouldn’t you just love a scheme which guarantees sales increases for those retailers who implement it? What? It’s true!
The secret is based on twin truths – simplicity and integrity.

IMPACT. Few will recall in detail just how the giant superstores devastated brewers’ profits and wholesalers’ Christmas parties in 1993. What did you do in the first big multiple beer price war, daddy ? What retailers did in droves was buy their beer from the mults big style. The response from supportive suppliers and wholesalers was the decision to educate retailers into stocking brands that consumers want – the simple beginnings of the Blueprint.
Today every genuine drinks supplier has benefited from the scheme which has influenced the buying policies of every wholesaler, great and small.

DEALS. The front and back door deals in obscure unsupported brands which characterised the wholesale sector pre-1993 have largely disappeared.That is one Blueprint benefit. Drinks suppliers will confirm this when they compare their brand sales into wholesale before and after the Blueprint.
Integrity in the advice given to retailers and the case studies of successful make-overs have given the Blueprint an iconic status envied by many. There are some pale imitations which are demonstrably flawed.
The Blueprints are now protected by copyright. Years of investment and hard slog by genuinely supportive suppliers need protection.

POSING. Wholesalers, especially those senior principals consulted by Vigilante, have lived with this work since the middle 1990s and confirm they no longer tolerate advertising posing as industry based advice. Retailer “guidance” which attempts to leapfrog over the wholesale mechanism is sooo yesterday.
Consider the new Blueprint 2006 “cluster” strategy adopted by major wholesalers who are now working with IMA, the Manchester agency which constructed a special nerve centre to implement the Blueprint.
To date no fewer than 10 wholesalers with clusters of retailers are embracing the Take Home Blueprint because it is trusted – and they are working with the activity entirely on the grounds of integrity. You, dear reader, may want to do the same – ring 0161 440 2770 for more.

FEAR. Once wholesalers stocked unsupported drinks brands for fear that the cash and carry down the road would do so if they did not. Wide acceptance of the principles of the Blueprint has demolished this syndrome of fear. But there is more (yawns are now permitted . . .) Those funding the scheme may grind their teeth, but the advice offered by the Blueprints (which are not prescriptive in any sense) includes space allocation for “retailer choice or local favourites”.
This means what it says on the tin. Local drinkers might favour a big brand in enormous quantities, so it qualifies as a local favourite. And so may a minor local brewer’s bitter.
Is this too much for those who should be in bed before the watershed? Only joking!

EXTENSIONS. Will the Blueprint principles work in other categories? Why not? There are bags of individual wholesaler merchandising plans out there based on these principles.
What’s the difference between a wholesaler’s dedicated scheme and the Blueprint, asks an aforementioned brand manager, very bravely. It is this. Wholesaler schemes are based on compliance and audits. And very good they are too. The Blueprint principles have been adapted (note the ‘a’). The wholesaler has done his homework with supportive suppliers. Nothing wrong with that.
The Blueprints are educational, proven, non-prescriptive and therefore retailer friendly to such an extent that the wholesaler dedicated schemes virtually grow out of them.
The Blueprints are the fundamental solid foundation from which all other audited schemes can grow.

CUBA LIBRE. Millions of listeners to You And Yours (Radio 4) heard the dulcet tones of Steve Parfett giving the slashed price of Bacardi as an example of a Christmas goodie in the multiples.
Radio 4 wanted to know why independent retailers could buy brands at lower than wholesale prices at the superstores. In the trade we all know why and Parfett got it exactly right.
Independents who buy in bulk from superstores are not helping themselves. And the giants have promised previously to prevent store managers from acting as cash and carry depot managers (which could infringe planning permissions). Bacardi didn’t do themselves any Christmas favours either.

MORATORIUM. It’s that word again, you know … the one which means OFT could, at a stroke, impose a temporary halt on all acquisitions of convenience stores by the Big 4.
Philip Collins (chair) and John Fingleton (chief executive), new twin towers at the regulator, have not (yet) telephoned Vigilante following his calm rationale (ProWholesaler, Nov/Dec) on why a temporary halt would appease the baying lobbies.
But the word ‘moratorium’ must have assumed sinister connotations even for the retailer lobby. Is this because the French obliged their giants to desist from acquisition prior to setting down their small shop defence laws in 1997?

PARLIAMENT. As exclusively forecast in this column, it will be our gorgeous Members of Parliament (don’t you love ’em?) who will eventually sort out the OFT.
Did you know the OFT remit does NOT include social or environmental issues – two fundamentals in the domination debate which are the responsibility of government?
Gerry Sutcliffe (consumer minister) could come to our aid before Dave Cameron does.

CHAMPION. Chair of the All Party Small Shops Committee Group Jim Dowd MP is championing the FWD cause. This is not new. He spoke out against Tesco when he addressed the FWD conference two years ago.
The Grocer (January 7) reports that his group, in its awaited report, will defend the multiples and their low prices, taking the wind out of many lobbies’ sails.
But, dramatically, MPs will speak up for wholesalers, moving our industry to centre stage.
This will focus attention on the sole traders and family shops, the very people promoted by the My Shop is Your Shop campaign.

BETFAIR. Who will take Vigilante on? Will OFT help our industry in 2006? It’s worth a bet. Vigilante says it will happen. What say you and what are your odds?

Happy New Year.

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