Buyer’s Diary

== Monday ==

 

National Independents’ Week has begun, supported by national press advertising including money-off vouchers, in the Sun, Scottish Sun and Liverpool Echo.

 

Some of our team will be spending the week working in store with retail club members and I’ll be popping down to my local store for a cup of tea and a biscuit on National Cuppa Day.

They’ll have to spill this activity out onto the pavement so I hope the weather stays fine. How effective will the money-off vouchers be? Given the circulation of these papers the real value to consumers runs into many millions of pounds. All redeemed properly, I trust.

Claimed to be the world’s best blend, Suntory’s 12-year-old Hibiki Japanese Whisky arrived in the UK last month with a retail price of around £40 a bottle. Is recession-hit Britain really ready for this? To maintain our reputation as stockists of the finest selection of whiskies in the area, we feel obliged get hold of a case or two. Still, that’s cheap against the limited edition Johnnie Walker Black on sale in Selfridges for £100.

Carling’s £2m summer spend will plug the ‘100% British barley’ ingredient in its new campaign. With so much lager emphasis on continental names and worldwide origins it will be interesting to see whether the lads will be much fussed – possibly not.

The ladies, on the other hand, may react more favourably to the new 330ml 99 calorie Carling bottle.

 

== Tuesday ==

 

The proposed mandatory code of practice to tackle irresponsible alcohol sales launched for consultation last month outlines some tough new powers, principally to counteract binge drinking in the on trade, but also to restrict promotions in the off.

 

This calls for a major rethink by suppliers, wholesalers and retailers in how we will promote alcohol in the future.

Presumably the proposed requirement to display alcohol unit content and health warnings will affect us as well as our customers, since we trade with a retail licence. Banning retailers from selling alcohol at prices below the level of excise duty and VAT would further the government’s objectives in tackling alcohol-related harm in a way that would not unduly affect responsible drinkers and retailers.

Our attention has been drawn to falling prices for rice and potato-based products which are not being reflected in lower wholesale or retail pricing. Hardly a new situation as all we gas, electricty and fuel users know too well, but surely it gives manufacturers scope to enhance promotional activity in the short term.

The presence of real gold flakes in liqueurs is well known, but in bubbly – now that’s an interesting prospect. Blue Nun’s new sparkling wine looks expensive at £7.99 a bottle, unless of course you can capture the gold.

 

== wednesday ==

 

Britvic appears to have its costs firmly under control as first half sales grew by over 6% and profitability has greatly improved.

 

The prospect of a good summer for the ICC World Twenty20 cricket competition, and some interesting promotional opportunities presently under discussion, will complement the price-marked Perfect 6 activity, not to mention its Robinson’s Wimbledon TV investment and the launch of Drench juice drinks. It’s just what we need right now.

What makes FWD’s DrinkSummit so arresting is the presence of free speaking, passionate retailers who don’t mind telling their story exactly as it is.

This month’s event at the Cotswold Water Park in Gloucestershire on 22-23 June will be no different, with seven retailers, some collaborating with their wholesaler, getting the message ‘It’s the consumer, stupid’ home to wholesalers and suppliers alike.

It’s an event well worth attending. We’ll be there.

McVities Mini Croissants are a very interesting development providing a useful crossover between breakfast and snacking. It is a pity independents missed out on the in-store promotional activity – a perfect product for a sampling programme.

 

== thursday ==

 

The launch of Rowntree’s Randoms in May certainly got our confectionery buyer excited and it has enjoyed a good press.

 

The target audience appears to be 16-24 year olds although I would have thought the nature of the random shapes, affordability and juicy fruitiness would give them mass appeal.

Rumours of a beer drought this summer are greatly exaggerated, me thinks. A pub with no beer, an offie without Stella, rationing at Asda? No chance.

Seven pence an hour before tax. That’s the increase in the minimum wage which a lot of retailers (and some wholesalers) will hide behind this October when rewarding staff for their efforts. The MSYS campaign reminds us of the great service the local store provides and how staff are integral to building its community profile. What is a good member of staff to a customer? A friend, confidant, money taker, shelf filler, security guard, tea maker, and sometimes nurse – all these things and more. Do we know the real value of these people to our business?

Let your hair down, kick off your shoes, undo your top button – that’s the way Muller want the ladies to enjoy their thick and creamy ‘Amore for me’ yogurts. Great advertising for a super product.

 

== friday ==

 

Carlsberg is injecting £7m behind the San Miguel Spanish lager brand this summer.

 

Distribution through our sector is not particularly strong so it is important we lend our support and get both bottles and cans into the premium lager section on independents shelves, and into the beer chiller, too.

Trading has been reasonable in recent weeks. We’re not usually ones to complain or blame the weather or the competition, although we stay aware of what is going on around us in both wholesale and retail. Beyond beer and wine, we are holding our own.

Retailers and caterers appear to have reduced their overall stockholdings but that was a one-off hit and sales are now on an even keel.

Will the all new Sunny D achieve early success in the fruit juice market? A £4.5m investment, including TV advertising, sampling and introductory promotions, should be enough to achieve solid distribution but competitors will inevitably frustrate the brands’ progress.

The cat food market has become extremely confused. The wide range of varieties from the two leading brands leads customers towards jelly or gravy fills, kitten, mid age and senior cat categories, but I have two discerning cats who recently discovered and love the taste of Optimix from Lidl.

Surprisingly, neither speaks a word of German, yet they are absolutely delighted with the product judging from the empty bowls. Me too. A 12-sachet pack is around 40% cheaper.

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