Buyer’s Diary

== monday ==

The weatherman claims the arrival of British summertime has coincided with a spell of fine weather.

Sunshine, like the snow, can have a big impact in depot so we’ve responded quickly this morning by rearranging end displays and getting ‘spring lines’ on show.

It is clear the UK advertising market is in serious decline as a result of the recession. Major regional newspaper groups and commercial television companies report rapidly declining advertising revenues resulting in closures and redundancies. Neither can many major events find the sponsors. This has sent a cold shudder down our spines. For us supplier advertising income is vital. Not only does it cover the cost of producing and mailing of our promotional leaflets and point of sale material, but also helps to fund a whole range of customer services, particularly through our retail club. Each of our buyers has a target income to reach but making up the shortfall by promoting tertiary brands isn’t in our best interests.

I am taking more interest in what is being advertised on TV on those precious few opportunities I have to sit back and relax in front of the box. So what am I being invited to buy? Toilet cleaners, Bold, Optrex eye drops, Lenor, Johnson’s baby wipes, Linx deodorant spray, VO5 shampoo, E45 skin cream and Wrigley’s Gum. Is there some science to this? Do advertisers know who is likely to watch some programmes and target accordingly?

== tuesday ==

All the media talk about supermarkets loss leading on drink fuelling the nations’ binge drinking culture is simply ridiculous.

Neither can the independent retail trade be accused of participating.

There is no way we wholesalers can provide the prices – nor can independent retailers possibly afford to loss-lead on alcohol.

Young People’s Venues (YPVs) must carry the can for the bulk of today’s binge drinking problems and government must challenge the on-trade to get its act together.

If not, all parts of the off-trade will lose out to more knee-jerk reactions and nanny state policies.

It has taken me nearly half an hour on-line to enter a series of 15 digit code numbers from the Active Kids voucher in Sainsbury’s win pound;50 of shopping promotion. Sadly, none proved to be winners, but I have qualified for a two for one consolation prize.

Unfortunately the only available activity within 20 miles is a round of golf (unless, of course, I want to take up fencing or attend Pilates classes), so it’s going to cost me pound;35 in green fees to enjoy my prize!

I hope the new Coke Zone on-line loyalty programme, which plans to give away one million bottles of Coke Zero, is easier to access.

== wednesday ==

Thanks Britvic for your strong support for Robinson’s Fruit Shoot and the Perfect 6 carbonates range activity for 2009.

Your marketing investment is substantial and support for the independent sector remains strong and long may that be the case.

It’s now six weeks since my local independent changed his colours from green to red. The refit has made a massive difference and the store, with a strong focus on convenience, appears very busy.

The addition of quality fruit and veg does make a big difference but the off licence will struggle until it can get rid of stock supplied by the previous wholesaler. The local baker is none too happy having new competition on the food-to-go front, but the whole shopping parade, including the post office, should benefit in the longer run.

Sainsbury is obviously unhappy with my attendance record at its local store so it is tempting me back with pound;36 worth of discount vouchers, a 10% discount on a pound;60 shop every week for the next six weeks.

I have taken the bait but it is going to have to improve on product availability if it is to enjoy a return visit. There wasn’t a single large egg box without breakages and the pet food aisle was in such a mess that the Whiskas ‘special offer’ stock I selected from behind the offer card was not the pack on offer and was charged at a higher price.

== thursday ==

S N’s venture into Polish beer distribution with the award winning Zywiec brand must help to improve distribution, but is there room for it on independents’

shelves?

Few, if any of Europe’s leading beers have progressed very far in the UK market in recent years as Anheuser Busch learned in 2007 with one of my favourites, Estrella Damm from Barcelona. Great tasting lager, yes, but simply not viable in this grossly over-ranged category.

The same could be said for the energy drinks market where ranging decisions are being made more complicated by the regular arrival of new and own brand ranges.

Cash and carries are suckers for pitching into markets like this. Haven’t we learned any lessons from the ‘boom times’ of white cider and alcopops and the inevitable proliferation of brands and own label?

I, for one, will greatly miss Anheuser Busch’s unique approach to the marketing of American beers now that its takeover by Inbev has been completed.

Few companies have done more to build strong relationships with our sector – or have been so generous in involving the trade in their major sponsorship activities.

== friday ==

Who are we to believe? Either own label is growing at the expense of brands as consumers look for lower prices, or brands are winning the day, bolstered by heavyweight promotional activity. Can’t have it both ways can we?

The budget edges ever closer. It is impossible to predict its contents given the state of our economy but surely the chancellor cannot load any more tax onto alcohol at the present. Tobacco, I fear, is in for a hiding. My only message to the Chancellor is – just how much more revenue are you prepared to lose to the smugglers and bootleggers? Price marking will at least ensure JPS, Royals and Pall Mall brands offer good value well beyond the budget even though it denies retailers the opportunity for much needed stock appreciation.

Interest in locally produced foods is on the increase and we are working with a number of local businesses to build this trade which in turn benefits the local community. Is this the way to go?

It makes good sense for Tropicana to introduce a 750ml Smoothies carton and new price points to revive its fortunes, as Innocent also ponders on how to win back lost sales. No one challenges the quality of the product but it’s a tough market and some fresh creativity is necessary to drive back growth.

The recent failure of a once proud and successful wines and spirits agency is a further reminder of the difficult trading conditions we operate in. Its demise owes more to the influence exerted over it by the multiple sector than its inability to service the needs of the independent market.

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