buyer’s diary


Yes, I really did buy a copy of yesterday’s News of the World but only to find out about the latest development in the government-backed Change4Life scheme.

The great swapathon voucher book encourages the purchase of healthier foods, with discount vouchers worth pound;9 at Asda on leading grocery brands, including fruit and vegetables, as well as free membership of Weightwatchers. I loved the 20% discount offered by Asda Direct on dining room furniture, apparently to encourage families to take their meals together. Bless you, Asda.

The idea of setting up tabs in pubs by drinking groups in a bid to reduce consumption, as suggested by the Prime Minister, does not have the support of my local landlord. He reckons closing time would be a complete shambles and he will continue to demand payment on delivery of the drink.

December was a very satisfactory trading period for booze and soft drinks with overall performance well ahead of last year. We cannot put this down to our aggressive pricing policy there was no way we could match the multiples but the closure by HMRC of a wholesale business dealing in duty fraud stock was a real blessing. If only it could shut down the tobacco smugglers too.


Were the general public aware that branded whisky, gin and vodka litre offers over Christmas in most multiples actually under-cut own brand prices on a like-for-like basis?

What does the future of own brand spirits hold for us? Look what happened to the take home beer market a few years ago.

The VAT change has passed quietly in the local fish and chip shop with only one customer raising issue over higher prices and he didn’t know about the increase. Business has been good since Christmas, with people obviously seeking an alternative to cold turkey and ham sandwiches.

Confectionery suppliers must be made aware that the current explosion of new flavours, packaging formats and new market entrants cannot be supported without a thorough review of existing ranges. ‘One in one out’, my old trading director used to say.

Space continues to be at a premium, both here in the depot and on our retailers shelves. That said, the arrival of well-supported brands like Snickers Maximums, Aero Bubbly Lamb and Aero Caramel, and the Mike amp; Ike invasion from America, will ensure continued interest in the category.


The new TV advertising campaign for the Innocent smoothies brand is really excellent.

According to the marketing blurb ‘a caped super hero is saving us from the temptation of unhealthy snacks and offering us a healthier way to beat that feeling of peckishness delivered to the tune of a fruitier version of Queen’s famous Flash Gordon’. Can we expect Coca-Cola’s investment in the faltering smoothie market will help turn it around?

I was not the only buyer to have been impressed by the Chocco Pops breakfast cereal product placement which leapt from the screen in a recent EastEnders episode. Twitter and other on-line discussion forums have been asking for more information and a fan base is growing. Who will bring this brand to market?

Talking to the owner of my local store, he says Christmas trading was very good, but since New Years Eve sales have fallen away.

He says it took over two hours to merchandise and re-price stock on the tobacco gantry following the January 4 VAT increase. To minimise the workload, he is leaving all other prices unchanged and will only apply the VAT increase when new stock arrives.


Can you believe Waitrose’s top ten predictions for what we will eat this year?

They include traditional ‘Grandma’ recipes, Peruvian delicacies along with light Scandinavian dishes, and Mexican and Japanese cuisine. With guinea pigs the greatest of Peruvian delicacies, I can’t wait to see how it will market the loveable furry creature.

With a Royal wedding on the close horizon, squeezed into the gap between Easter and the May Day, we are anticipating a massive business opportunity as communities organise street parties and other celebrations.

Coca-Cola Enterprises are right to claim that consumers are more likely to buy a product with a price-marked pack in retail at least, so its current PMP programme is very welcome. Please keep straight packs going, however. There are a few retailers and a lot of catering customers who simply cannot operate on the margins provided.


Wrigley’s gum has won the battle with Cadbury’s Trident, but has it won the war?

Kraft will not be happy with second place, and in the light of Wrigley’s promise to develop new products can we expect Kraft to improve its game? Trebor is a great brand and has real growth potential.

With both The Co-operative and Morrisons stepping up their promotional activity to include doorstep and newspaper insert offer sheets, I wonder why we can’t do more to encourage our retailers to be more pro-active with the special offer packages we provide. Yes, we produce leaflets for retailers but how many ever reach the consumer?

In a neighbourhood situation it must be possible to produce something relevant to the store not just about prices but services too. We can’t ever win the price war but we can promote the core principles of ‘My Shop is Your Shop’ and turn it into a year round message?

A bowl of Oat So Simple is how I like to start my day. The launch of a pot format is brilliant no need for milk in the fridge, a microwave or washing up. A bit pricey at 99p but how convenient is that.

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