buyer’s diary

Monday

There is loads of Jubilee and Olympic Games merchandise around and I am sure there is profit for independents from a limited well-managed selection.

I’ll be glad to see the back of it but the non-foods buyer is confident he has got his buying right. We have avoided most of the tacky stuff that inevitably creeps into the system.

Any government ban on the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty or at a minimum selling price of 40p per unit of alcohol is unlikely to bring any real benefit to the independent on and off trades. There is little or no evidence to suggest anyone is selling booze that cheaply, particularly in the on trade where binge drinking and antisocial behaviour begins. The Wine amp; Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) describes the government move “as a blunt tool which will fail to address the problem of alcohol misuse and punish the vast majority of responsible consumers.” I agree.

Of much greater concern to Westminster and the drinks trade is the increase in availability of counterfeit booze, highlighted recently on TV. The scale of confiscations of illicit wine and vodka from independent stores is frightening. The same goes for cigarettes. The industry claims a quarter of the tobacco market is now in the hands of criminals.

Tuesday

Pringles not only has a new owner but improved flavours, too.

Careful, messing with the taste doesn’t always work. What we need now from this brand is a sensible pricing policy.

It’s all gone very quiet on the chewing gum front. Has Kraft backed off from fighting Wrigley’s dominant position with its Trident brand? It must be proving very costly.

You get a good feeling about GSK’s launch of Lucozade Revive into the energy drink market. The packaging looks great and a pound;6m TV and outdoor spend should set this product up nicely.

The GSK Ribena Plus range UK launch is due any day now. Directed at young women and mothers, the product is described as ‘functional’. GSK claims this will be its biggest drinks launch in over 20 years. Exciting times.

April sees the year end for a number of important overrider arrangements. Buying goods you don’t need to maximise earnings is not unusual, although it brings problems when next year’s targets are being negotiated. Worse still is to fail to hit the target. If it wasn’t for this income stream, we probably wouldn’t be making any profit at all.

Wednesday

The M uuml;ller brand is an important contributor to chilled food sales.

However, the recent addition of limited edition Crunch Corner pots puts further pressure on dairy cabinet space, and while it’s good to have new flavours we, like many of our retail customers, have no choice but to delete other lines in order to accommodate them. We had a policy of ‘one in one out’ but that proved hard to do. Remerchandising cabinet space is time consuming for products only available for a short period.

I expect Britvic to look even further into its vast soft drinks range and come up with more mixed variety cases following its Fruit Shoot trial with a leading delivered wholesaler. It’s a great way to increase choice on retail shelf and chiller without tying up cash and storeroom space.

We have tried spitting cases ourselves in a number of product categories to good effect but it’s time consuming. More suppliers should be doing this for us.

Thursday

All credit to Weetabix for laying out its marketing plans for 2012 so precisely.

All too often we are kept in the dark. The option of price-marked and non-priced packs is useful and the smaller case sizes will help improve distribution.

I was puzzled to see one of the smaller wholesale buying groups quitting its present trading partner to go it alone to focus on foodservice when its former ally is probably one of the most ambitious and successful operators in the foodservice market. There is an untold story here, I am sure.

The rising cost of fuel is not just a worry for our customers, but for our own fleet of vehicles too.

As diesel prices hit an all time high how can we recover our costs for the growing number of delivery drops we are making? Our distribution coordinator has his time cut out finding best routes and timings.

Friday

A symbol group retailer who regularly uses our cash and carry to pick up the goods his wholesaler fails to deliver is getting so angry he is thinking about jumping ship.

Failure to meet drop size often costs him a surcharge but he has just spotted that while a case of cans, cartons or bottles represents one case, so does a single pork pie. Guess what he is putting on special offer this week.

A couple of the buying team will be going up to the National Convenience Show and Food amp; Drink Expo at the NEC at the end of the month.

One of our competitors is going to miss it, having committed to attend its group conference in the Bahamas. Tough call.

Just a year on from releasing its Tommy K with balsamic vinegar, Heinz is stirring it up again, this time with a limited edition ‘Indian Spice’ blended sauce. If only they’d stuck to 57 varieties wouldn’t life be so much simpler for all of us.

We hear The Co-operative is sniffing around some of the leading independent operators, keen to find quality sites to develop. It is currently the fifth largest group following the acquisition of Somerfield, and this is an ambitious organisation wanting to go places while stealing some of our best customers along the way.

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