Captain Vigilante

PIPSQUEAK. Yes, he made another appearance with some mean-spirited remarks about a certain gentleman and, as usual, got it all wrong again.

Mentioning, as he gleefully exploits the matter, the withdrawal of Booker from FWD as indicative of a disappointing year, he typically is not aware the Federation enjoyed its most successful year ever in financial and activity terms.

He and his cronies who denigrated FWD, ACS, SWA and other anti-superstore lobbies as “too little, too late” must be sweating at the prospect of regulator action soon. Who, we ask, will be too little and too late then?

MESSAGES. The My Shop Is Your Shop generic consumer PR campaign is just starting out to encourage shoppers to appreciate independent retailers. It hasn’t got adequate firepower yet. Give it time. But the need for MSYS is driven home every day.

Justin King used his massive media coverage on the slight Sainsbury recovery to mention his low prices in every sentence.
Then Lord ‘on your bike’ Tebbit, on Today, on March 26, commenting on Conservative confusion on public spending policies, said: “Everyone sees prices coming down at Tesco, Asda and so on … but taxes going up under Labour…” Strewth.

MORE. Sir Ken Morrison, who will win in the end, soon got round to promoting the low prices in his shaky empire too. There’s no respite. Taking a bottle of water, he pointed at the label and said if it had Safeway on it, the price would be x, but x minus y if it was a Morrison own label – yet it was the same product.

Bob Stott, the newly promoted CEO, will sort the company out. He believed in a new poultry product presented to him by a youthful Vigilante to such an extent that the said salesman won the company prize of a (colour) TV set (Bang Olufson).
Ready-stuffed chicken was the product – parsley and thyme or sage and onion. Do you remember, Bob? Does anyone?

DESIST. There’s some scoffing at the plight of Tesco, particularly, and other super-giant-corporates and their exposure for selling, well, crap dressed up as chicken twizzels and such like for kids.

Independent retailers, and wholesalers, sell an awful lot of products which are not exactly suitable for anyone with an abnormally sweet tooth or uncontrollable desire to snack.
GSK’s Andrew Cowan, who delivered a paper on responsible impulse marketing at the annual FWD dinner at the Savoy in November, is being proved correct day after day.
Wholesalers take note. Listen to Andrew.

DELIA. Every Blue supporter was on her side when a fired-up Delia Smith, on TV, urged Norwich City supporters to get behind their team in their fixture with Manchester City (who won 2-3). Blue away supporters, the best, recognised a cry from the heart although it was clearly not fuelled with a glass of cooking sherry.
Former Booker chief Barry Skipper, a Norwich director, is responsible for the following. Carrow Road will be re-named in time for next season. It will become Lettuce B Avenue.

REVIEW. Everyone seems to be talking about the imposition of a market review by the Office of Fair Trading. But is it realistic? Vigilante is told that Tesco cannot be penalised for being successful and any brake on its low price policies will not stand up in court – where any action would inevitably end up.

And the signal to the mass of shoppers, what politicians now describe as ‘hard-working families’, that a bureaucratic Mr Mean was taking their low prices away, could cause a consumer (and inflation) problem.

REMEDY. Something will have to give. Will suppliers reduce terms to wholesalers to enable independents to enjoy low prices? This would hit manufacturer profits – and we could see them in court seeking non-interference in their affairs. The EU would be on their side.

Perhaps the answer lies in waiting for more consolidation in wholesaling to achieve better terms for independents. (Watch out for flying pigs). Which of the above remedies will Mr Mean (who referred little Somerfield) find to his liking?
Answers on a postcard please to Vigilante, c/o FWD.

HAPPY. If you can remember when Nurdin Peacock launched Happy Shopper, month and year, you could win a bottle of red by sending a postcard to Vigilante. It is a brand which endures. Stuart Rose promoted Happy Shopper at Test cricket matches very effectively when he was the boss at Booker and over the years the brand has benefited from millions of impacts on shoppers who must have been left happy.

Rory Bremner is a chap who remembers it as a local shop fascia. It’s in his memory bank and on his March 13 programme he included it in his skit on the Camilla Charles registry office do. “There they go,” he said, “in the limo past the pub, round by the town hall, and here they come just by the Happy Shopper…” indicating the shop is a serious landmark (oops).
A brief but valuable mention.

JULIAN. No, not him, but Lloyd Webber, is the latest anti-Tesco celebrity to come out. He says the arrival of a Tesco Express in his neighbourhood, following the acquisition of Europa/Harts by the “rampant conglomerate” is hurting.

In a phrase missed by the hacks but glorious none the less, the cellist describes the giant’s record as the “Tesco Chain Store Massacre” and it may force his local Sri Lankan-run newsagency to close.

Jon Snow, Patience Strong, Geoff Randall, Neil Collins, Jeremy Warner, Jeremy Paxman and John Humphries, are just a few from memory who are all on the side of the independent.
Trouble is their fees are too high for anti-multiple conference rallying calls.

SUDAN ONE. Members of FWD and non-member wholesalers were warned of the impending Sudan One emergency at 4.28pm on February 16.

A bottle of the usual Vigilante red to anyone providing evidence that they issued their warning any earlier. Applications on a stamped postcard, please.

RATIONAL. Emerging from the hot air of a meeting into the Spring sun, it occurred to Vigilante that the OFT needs friends. Or perhaps it needs to give more publicity to its raison d’être.
People get upset with this august office because its fails to understand that it is here to protect the consumer and to encourage competition. When the OFT presents at the FWD conference at The Belfry on April 19 that will be the message.
Will wholesalers then adopt a more mature demeanour?

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