Buyer’s Diary

MONDAY
Soft drink sales have been stop-start all summer.

Heavy end of year buying enabled us to hit (only just) top performance targets and maximise overrider earnings, but now the rain has returned with a vengeance to slow down sales and dampen our spirits.

Given our sector’s contribution to the success of the Stowell’s Taste the World wine range, down in part to aggressive 3 for a tenner promotions over the past couple of years, the drinks buyer is none too pleased to see Somerfield advertising on TV a 4 for a tenner deal on the very same wines. At £2.50 a bottle, it’s got to be the snip of the summer season.

While I might challenge Masterfoods over its claim that the new Galaxy Promises range will bring new consumers to the market and deliver incremental sales, I have to admit it is an excellent product and the level of launch spend will ensure good distribution. The new easy open/reclosable stand up pouch packs of Maltesers (and the rest) makes such good sense, too.

TUESDAY
The chief medical officer’s annual report says a quarter of all cigarettes and 75% of hand-rolling tobacco avoids UK taxes, mostly through smuggling.

Can government honestly allow such abuses to continue? I doubt if the new14 stick packs of B H Gold and Silver will make much difference.

The new size is all the more interesting because, Gallaher says, it equates to the average smokers daily puff. Since averages are calculated by adding all the different consumptions together and dividing by the count, it is probable an awful lot of smokers aren’t average at all. Still, if it helps bring smokers into the local shop more often, or provides small change to spend on other goods, we will be more than happy. With this development, shouldn’t we be thinking about dropping 10s, if only to reduce our stock holding?

My long time admiration for Pringles marketing has been dented. Buy 3 and get a Blockbuster DVD rental free drives consumers into this 720-store national home entertainment centre, effectively re-routing footfall to their door through this clever on-pack offer. Thousands of independents who offer a DVD/video hire service will lose on this – and on snacks and confectionery sales

Blockbuster claims it is now “a one stop shop for a great night in. What better way to shop for entertainment, food and alcohol all under one roof”. And so is the local community store! At least we’ve got the new Mini Pringles which should fly off the shelves.

WEDNESDAY
A pat on the back for Unilever’s Convenience Category experts.

Their ‘Focus on Toiletries’ as part of the Partners for Growth programme is very welcome because many independent retailers still perform poorly in this category.

If we can persuade our customers to take the steps recommended, stock the leading brands and merchandise to the planogram, there is extra business for all of us.

On the heels of Southcorp’s La Belle Tarasse launch, we observe the arrival of Ernst Julio Gallo’s Red Bicyclette branded wines from the Languedoc region in southern France, which are being trialled in Thresher outlets.

However, at £7.99 the wines are grossly overpriced. Even with a bottle free with their 3 for 2 ongoing offer, it’s over £5.30 a bottle. “On your bicyclette”, some might say.

Once again PepsiCo has come up with a brilliant on pack promotion with Walkers Crisps September Mini Ipod giveaway. What a great way to get people eating even more of their product.
Golden Wonder has also pushed the boat out with full page “tanned flesh” adverts for Golden Skins in the quality newspapers.

It looks like they are trying to move the brand up-market to create the thinking man’s (and woman’s) crisp.

It’s a daring campaign which I hope will succeed. We really do need another big player.The new Balti Curry flavour will definitely help.

THURSDAY
It is a great relief to have finally completed our Christmas confectionery programme.

With first stock arriving mid October, we have again been cautious with our ranging decisions, aware that barmy pricing from some of the high street stores and major multiples may yet spoil the party. We had very little carry over last year and enjoyed good boxed sales from some of the smaller producers, a trend I hope we can replicate this year.

Now it’s time to sort out our Christmas drinks package, a task made all the more interesting by the possibility of extended opening hours from specialist chains and multiples over the Christmas period. The take home market still appears to be growing at the expense of the on trade and our sales through independent outlets are well up this year – although some of the reps say that some of our competitors are having a tough time. Generous promotional investment from our leading suppliers is being urgently sought

We’ve had to move quickly to deal with the Tango product recall. This is where our IT system really comes into its own by identifying recent purchasers. After all the difficulties dealing with the recent Sudan 1 crisis, we really have nipped this one in the bud.

FRIDAY
Cadbury’s current supply problems are making life very difficult.

We have lost a lot of business already and customers are complaining about missing key lines. Worse still, we can offer no assurances of when the goods will arrive. It’s a real mess.
HJ Heinz’ widely reported drop in profitability is being blamed on falling soup sales in the UK, but we are told they have a cunning plan to put things right by the start the soup season which opens in October. I hope they will share it with us soon.

Little of the government’s promise of an extra 10p per pupil per day to improve the quality of school meals is likely to come the way of our foodservice operation because of packaging and transport cost increases, the emphasis on fresh versus frozen and the need to provide training for kitchen staff. Sixty pence won’t buy you a Mars bar and a packet of crisps, so what hope have school kitchens got to provide two-course nutritional meals with the same money?

We have been reviewing our ARTD Features > Business, which some say is now over the hill. But are they right? Diageo’s multi million pound investment in Uri and Smirnoff Ice, together with its new Archers Vea and rum-based Parrot Bay, the launch of Taboo Blue and the arrival of Absolut Cut to the take home market, makes for interesting times. The arrival of Budweiser’s 5% BE, a mix of beer, caffeine, ginseng, guarana extract and fruit flavour, surely adds weight to the possibility of an autumn ARTD revival.

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