Buyer’s Diary

== monday ==

Doom and gloom forecast by the national media in the high street clearly doesn’t take into account some amazing activity breaking right now.

There were short sharp bursts of activity during November to encourage early purchasing, particularly in wine and beers, and this is already impacting on our sales as multiples and specialists turn on the heat.

Everyone wants my Christmas business. Waitrose has sent me pound;22 of discount vouchers, equivalent to 10% off, Sainsbury has sent me pound;48 worth of money saving coupons, equivalent to 20% off, to spend with them over Christmas and the New Year. I even got an email from Thresher offering 40% off drink, but with Asda, Tesco and Morrisons all taking full page newspaper ads promoting cheap beer and selling wine at half price or below, I really am spoiled for choice. However, as the price gap between wholesale and retail gets ever wider, I fear our retail customers will be better off buying from the multiples. We know plenty of on-trade customers who already do.

There is just a glint of hope that our more ambitious on-trade customers will make good for lost beer volumes by taking food more seriously.

Our catering sales team has been pulling together some seasonal meal and party ideas and are encourage publicans to create and promote a more professional food offering through to their customers.

== tuesday ==

We are at a loss to understand the recent call for a pre 9pm ban on advertising on alcoholic products.

Why? Nearly every major soap opera broadcast before the watershed is built around life in a pub, club or bar environment in which the key characters spend their hours drinking, often to excess.

Like the major supermarkets, we are quick to blame the weather for any failure to achieve our sales and profit forecasts, even though that very same weather produces incredible business opportunities for the more switched on operator, whether the weather is hot or cold. What distresses us right now is the impact the climate is having on availability and pricing of goods, and our buyers have to be very alert to respond to these rapid changes. Just pick up this weeks paper for examples. Crop failure for British potatoes, Far East tuna fish catch down, pineapple supply outlook bleak, wheat crops decimated by flooding and Spanish mandarin production reduced. Freak weather or climate change results in short supply of commodities and massive price hikes. As the oil industry knows only too well, good management can bring a windfall in profits. A few years ago our main challenges were for bulk cooking oil and canned tomatoes and fruits contracts. Today there are few categories that do not give us cause for concern.

== wednesday ==

When will the trade learn ‘if it’s not Scottish, it’s not whisky?’

Discounter Lidl features Canadian Whisky in its current offer and even The Grocer gets it wrong in its review of the new Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey flavoured barbeque sauces. What a great sounding product – it’s a pity I’ve put the Barbie away for the winter!

Heinz’s venture into English mustard may be a variety too far. It will be tough denting Colman’s market leadership and my initial thoughts are how quickly Heinz will move production of this very English product to the Netherlands and how soon will the back streets of Norwich enjoy newly created aromas of Tommy k and salad cream.

Things are not always what they seem. A sharp decline in sales by Magners, the brand credited with bringing the cider category out of the doldrums, has resulted in a loss of jobs, in spite of some amazing sales increases for the category.

C C’s statement of a sales slump is not in keeping with what the cider industry is telling us. Scottish Newcastle has good reason to invest its millions into the category given the decline in beer sales, but where is this market going?

== thursday ==

For a moment I thought April Fools day had come early – before I read the marketing blurb supporting the launch of Spam Slices.

Apparently, they have opened up a new category for the brand, making it ideal for buffets, picnics and tasty lunchtime sandwiches. Why didn’t I think of that? Soon they’ll be telling us it tastes great fried in batter.

It’s a smart move by Gillette to introduce a ‘value box’ containing five personal care products. This really helps those independents with limited space or finance to get saleable products onto the shelf.

Why is the failure of England and Scotland (and other home nations, too) to progress to the Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland causing so much concern? The finals will be a spectacle of the best soccer in Europe, with the quality and entertainment the Premiership delivers us every week. Fewer fans will be travelling abroad, and opportunities remain for brands and the on and off trades to mount campaigns.

Statistics can mislead. A news story claimed a wine brand has achieved a 261% sales increase and another that an imported lager has grown by 273% through a major retailer. If I sell a single bottle today and four bottles tomorrow, I have increased sales by 300%.

== friday ==

After watching the recent Guinness TV programme I felt the producers failed to tell us the real story.

The Guinness brand is undoubtedly losing sales. It has been for many, many years. But Diageo is a master in managing its decline and I am sure its pound;10m advertising investment this Christmas will pay dividends. We are backing the brand – and profiting from it.

Easter comes very early next year leaving precious little time to promote the amazing range of confectionery lines available. The new Cadbury’s Creme Egg advertising will make a strong impact as Mars and others attempt to push in, although the Mars and Friend mini egg package looks excellent. Pringles is a great product in spite of its many pack sizes and flavours.

However, its merry Pringle Christmas offer is confusing. If 40% of trade is done over the festive season, is it necessary to promote with a BOGOF? Isn’t that taking sales away? And why produce a 35% extra pack when you can get a standard pack for free? Lidl’s current pound;1.48 twin pack offer further confuses the situation.

The same might be said of premium priced Duracell batteries. The current ‘Buy four and get four free doesn’t make much commercial sense at this peak selling time. Every pack given away is a sale lost to the retailer – and to us – and the profit that goes with it.

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