Cash and carry and delivered wholesalers great and small have absorbed the principles of the Take Home Blueprint for Ales, Lagers and Cider and the subsequent category Blueprints since the initiative was launched by the Federation of Wholesale Distributors in 1994.
The launch followed the first disastrous – for brewers and wholesalers – price war on beer by the giant superstores. The mutual interest in educating independent retailers into higher standards of product selection and display was served by the Blueprint.
Over the years suppliers with proved brands in consumer demand in all alcohol categories have seen increases in sales to wholesalers. This is an established fact.
Now the Blueprints will boost their influence at the crucial wholesale level by organising a new form of linkage exercise, grouping a number of retailers served by a specific wholesaler into a “cluster” to be visited by a specialist Blueprint adviser who will help with a makeover based on Blueprint planograms.
The retailers forming the cluster will be guaranteed to see an increase in sales over their pre-makeover turnover which means more sales for wholesalers of brands consumers want – including own labels which have ample allocated space on Blueprint planograms.
Blueprint director Ross Shelley, who will over-see the new Blueprint Cluster Programme, told ProWholesaler: “We have such confidence in the power of the Blueprints to produce increases in sales that we can offer individual wholesalers our new Cluster exercise for a selected number of their independent retailers knowing it will succeed.
“We will still respond to the growing number of retailers who ask for a makeover on an individual basis, but the Cluster will enable wholesalers who want to help their customers to take the credit when that customer’s sales go up.
“The Cluster programme will boost any retailer’s link with their wholesaler and help to develop the crucial bond of confidence between wholesaler and retailer.”
Ross can be reached on 0161 440 2770.
Integrity of advice is the crucial feature
In order to ensure that the planograms are educational and not prescriptive, they are designed as guidance. They embrace generous space allocations for a retailer’s own choice – for his customers’ favourites which are usually wholesaler own labels.
It is this aspect of the Blueprints which gives the retailer such confidence in the scheme. Solo company sponsored planograms do not have this credibility.
The Blueprints broke the mould when they were launched in that, for the first time in history of planogram advice, they included adequate space allocation for products which were in demand in that particular retailer’s store, even if they were not big national brands.
This aspect covers the reality of the wholesale/independent sector, the reality of the local shop serving the local community with its unique interface with the community.
No two independent stores are exactly the same. No two independent stores serve exactly the same type of community.
This is in line with the principle that brands which appear in the planogram guidance have to win their place in the market by consumer demand.
Independent market research is used to confirm the level of that demand.
FWD Blueprint – the retailers’ friendly helper
Wholesalers nominate their retail customers for a Blueprint makeover, conscious that this means a guarantee of increased sales (or the scheme will have to compensate the retailer to the level of pre-Blueprint turnover).
Or retailers themselves will ask for a makeover. But no salesman, as they say, will call. A specialist Blueprint advisor will. He or she will not carry stock but they will carry a lot of advice.
The adviser will explain how the Blueprints are drawn up and how successful they have been with his fellow independents. It is then up to the retailer to decide whether he wants to follow the guidance or not. Most do. The retailer must buy the stock if he does not have it at the time of the Blueprint adviser’s call. The adviser will then physically help the retailer to re-lay the shelves. This can take half a day, one day or more, as everyone understands that every independent store is different in size and their owners have widely varying business philosophies.
Unlike the quick in-and-out sole company merchandiser, or third party in-and-out quickster working for a variety of brands, the Blueprint adviser becomes a friend of the retailer, fully involved in helping the store to increase its sales of all brands and not just one brand.
Blueprint advisers are professionals, dedicated and fully trained. Their number is determined by the overall budget and they cover big territories at the behest of wholesalers who own the scheme.
The advisers do not operate on post-coded rapid fire calls timed to fit in with third-party clip-board part timers. The vast amount of success in their work in a wide variety of symbol stores and non-affiliates has produced a library of case histories of independent’s success which is unrivalled.
These case histories are published with details of how the Blueprint makeover increased sales and by what percentage. The Blueprint wholesalers challenge to any single company or similar scheme to match or exceed the number and scale of published case histories or success has never been taken up – nor is it likely to be.
Some critics say that independents will implement planograms themselves. But self–implementation, as professionals in the supplier community and in wholesale are aware, is a dream. It does not happen, otherwise the Blueprints and many blue chip suppliers would have adopted self-implementation ideas years ago.