Buyer’s Diary

== monday ==

The launch of price-marked packs of Whiskas and Pedigree by Mars Petcare is a good move.

Independents under-perform in this category and we would like to see more price marking to help them build a competitive image. Brownie points, too, for the 35p price-marked count lines introduced by Mars at the end of August.

The headline read ‘Murray retains hold over Ferrero’. For a moment I thought it was a comparison between a hard mint and a chocolate bar – until I realised it was about tennis players Andy Murray and Juan Carlos Ferrero. Am I becoming overly obsessed to the world of confectionery? Am I working too hard? Do I need a break? Oh no, there I go again.

This weekend the media has focused heavily on the change in Scottish licencing laws where both wholesalers and the retail trade have been very concerned over its implementation.

Will the banning of ‘happy hours’, discounted drinks and promotions relieve the binge drinking situation? Is it any worse in Scotland than elsewhere in the country? If successful, can we an expect more of the same in England and Wales?

As a pudding man, the dessert category has always been of special interest. Premier Foods intends to put a lot of money into the category over the next three years and is off to a great start with its Ambrosia Jelly and Crumble Puds.

== tuesday ==

Never give up. That’s Sky TV for you. It phoned my home five times last week, and every other day for the previous fortnight, trying to persuade me to reconnect.

Visiting a friend, our conversation was interrupted by a telephone call. Guess who? Sky, of course, and not for the first time says my friend. Sky, the people who won’t take no for an answer.

Our telesales team work hard and long but have nothing to learn from Sky’s obnoxious sales tactics.

Still, according to a report from Deloitte and YouGov, 43% of us would rather give up eating out and 38% would sacrifice a visit to the pub before reducing our television spend.

So, that’s all good news for Sky, takeaways and the off licence, then.

The quality and price look just right for the Birds Eye Essentials frozen meals range.

More exciting is the launch of its takeaway style range which includes Southern Fried Chicken Wings, Hot and Spicy Burgers and Classic Crumb Goujons.

Suppers from the freezer just got a lot more interesting. Kepak’s pound;1 Rustlers limited edition burgers are selling through very well and its new Hot Subs range looks a winner.

What will KFC and the takeaway burger boys make of these developments?

== wednesday ==

I was pleasantly surprised by the selection of brands and sizes of still, sparkling and fruit flavoured waters on sale in the chilled cabinet in my local Spar store.

With just one reasonably priced own brand product on shelf I thought the product mix was just about right.

Our water offering in the cash and carry is at least five times greater. Is it time to trim our massive offering – or does our ‘deal junkie’ mentality mean we will always be at the beck and call of suppliers when there is a deal on the table?

Latest trade information suggests British waters are winning market share at the expense of European eaux.

Tesco is spending big in both national and regional press to promote its Club Card scheme and offering considerable benefits through the doubling of Club Card points.

The multiple market share battle continues at what cost to the independent sector?

Morrison’s recent announcement that it will create an extra 2,000 jobs this year, having exceeded its earlier target of 5,000 new jobs five months early, imposes a further threat to the independent sector, particularly butchers and fruit and veg merchants.

As more pubs, restaurants, village stores and petrol stations close, the multiples continue to prosper.

== thursday ==

The marked decline in leading consumer magazine sales could have a knock-on effect for confectionery sales, resulting from reduced footfall into specialist CTN outlets.

Sales losses run into many millions of copies. That is a lot of traffic. Tabloid and broadsheet newspapers must also be feeling the pinch.

I hope retailers care sufficiently about the environment to want to participate in the My Shop is Your Shop National Walk Shop Day on September 16.

But it is the public, not the retailer, who have to be convinced to leave their cars in the driveway.

The massive pound;3.5m multi-media campaign behind Cadbury’s launch of Trebor extra strong peppermint and spearmint gums should get the brand off to a good start.

How about a Polo Mint Gum? The only problem will be where to put the holes.

Apparently, the likes of Selfridges, Harrods, Debenhams and Fortnum Mason have already opened their Christmas departments and several are reporting sales well ahead of last year. Are the general public ready for this? Are we ready for this? No. Is the world is going mad? Yes.

== friday ==

We are taking a close look at our

own brand packaging and labelling to make sure we are not infringing anyone’s copyright.

While I could never get confused between a Pimm’s and a Pitcher on shelf, I have picked up own brand products by mistake.

What a shame I can’t get to Dublin to celebrate Arthur’s Day on September 26 at the St James’s Gate Brewery. It’s a long time since I last downed a pint of the black stuff in that fair city but we have the consolation of increasing sales as the Guinness brand fires off a pound;3m investment to support its 250th anniversary campaign.

Having looked at my local independent’s fruit and vegetable offering – adequate but not that inspiring, I am pleased that the government-sponsored Change4Life scheme, in partnership with ACS, is soon to be rolled out across England and Wales. The 40% increase in sales recorded by participating stores is excellent. We, too, can do more to improve our offering.

I am puzzled by the BAT launch of a new ‘pocket friendly’ Pall Mall 19s cigarette. Promoting it as being more affordable is something I can’t quite grasp. I have calculated that if you buy a pack of 20 and smoke one, you are left with a pack of 19 anyway.

The Independent newspaper says diners spent pound;330m less on sit down meals and takeaways in the first half of this year and that restaurants continue to fail at a record rate. We have felt the pinch. Yet, in a pub in the heart of London’s Borough Market I enjoyed a good meal with two friends and a bottle of very drinkable Chilean Sauvignon for little more than pound;11 a head. The place was heaving.

It says something about offering good value?

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