buyer’s diary

Monday

Easy to forget, but this is our first Christmas without Woolworths.

Their massive seasonal market share is now up for grabs but will independents exploit this opportunity to cash in on their demise? We are providing some fantastic buying opportunities but new business will be lost to our sector unless independents can communicate good value to their customers and merchandise well in store.

The Aero Bubbles TV advertising campaign combined with the 33% extra free pack is moving out of depot very quickly. Nestlé have produced a well co-ordinated marketing programme with strong effective trade press support. The price marking of a wide selection of children and adult lines is also working well.

Evidence of an increase in home baking brought about by the current recession is a sector growth of 13% in value. Premier Foods is re-launching its £17m McDougalls home baking range and introducing new Cadbury baking mixes. National Cup Cake Day and National Baking Week (oops, we missed them both) must have worked, while Betty Crocker has been busy encouraging children to bake with mum during the half term break.

Tuesday

Many independents I talk to on the cash and carry floor say business is okay at the moment.

IGD consumer research even indicated shoppers were likely to use their local shop more over the coming year. Meanwhile, him! says that independents are ‘holding their own’. It doesn’t help to get too obsessed with what the multiples are doing but one has to be a little nervous at the way the multiples are acting to win trade. Tesco’s plan to issue vouchers at the checkout so customers can ‘buy one now, get one free later on’ (BONGOFLO) will have enormous appeal. Morrison’s and Sainsbury have stepped up their booze promotional offerings and Asda are back boasting the thousands of lower prices they provide weekly over their competitors, even though most of us buy fewer than 60 items a week.

We hear Kellogg’s have found a way to stamp its logo on individual corn flakes, useful only if you want to catch mum cheating on her kids by filling a Kellogg’s carton with own brand flakes.

Come off it, guys, it isn’t April Fool’s Day for a long time yet. Try doing it in on a rice krispies Mr K, that I would like to see. I trust Tate amp; Lyle have no similar aspirations.

Wednesday

The excellent speakers at Catersummit last month appeared oblivious to the well publicised downturn in ‘out of home’ eating.

A good sign, since enthusiasm was being matched by investment, these people can go places. The local fish amp; chip shop was heaving last Friday whilst the dining area in a local pub looked decidedly quiet. One struggling pub here has converted a bar into a takeaway food section specialising in cod amp; chips and is doing very well by all accounts.

Whilst the Whitbread owned ‘All you can eat for £5.99′ Taybarn family restaurants catch the limelight, on line activity from many leading multiple operators has grown considerably.

The range of promotional gimmicks, which include two meals for £10, two main meals for the price of one, 25% off total food bill, two main meals and a bottle of wine for £20, etc., are widely available. A ‘restaurant voucher’ web site now lists dozens of deals and independent operators can also participate. With poor prospects predicted for the forthcoming festive party market our catering customers need to be much more active in promoting their offering.

Thursday

We are again alarmed by the downturn in wine sales in spite of our ongoing heavyweight promotion activity.

Duty fraud stock is finding its way into the market in large volumes. Competition is intense and everyone has been showing real aggression matched by heavy discounting. To raise cash, the much troubled Thresher/Wine Rack group, now in administration, have been clearing out their cellars at giveaway prices whilst M amp;S have been offering 25% off their award winning wines. Lidl top the list with a ‘seriously cheaper’ stunning New World Wine offer of 3 for £9. All this places us at a distinct disadvantage at a critical trading time. The only way to match these deals is to lose money ourselves.

It is so generous of Sainsbury to tempt me back with six £9 discount vouchers off a £60 purchase, to cash in during the weeks leading up to Christmas. It will pay for a regular week’s supply of cat food or a couple of bottles of nice wine.

Friday

Smile at the current £5m marketing campaign ‘It has to be Heinz’.

“No other food brand can claim such a personal connection with the British people,” they say.

I can think of a few .

We were surprised at the decline in the breakfast cereal market (Nielsen data). Brand leader Weetabix aim to keep Kellogg’s at bay with a big new TV campaign. Good luck to them.

Ferrero Rocher is my choice brand for Christmas. Their extremely powerful early seasonal advertising is making quite an impact and we have provided them with additional display ends and extended shelf space to capitalise on their superb range of products.

GSK are the late comers to the Energy Shot market with Lucozade Alert Plus, claiming their product boosts mental performance, focus, memory and alertness. Just what the buying team needs right now! The introduction of Red Bull 60ml Energy Shots will give both Lucozade and Relentless a good run for their money.

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