Buyer’s Diary

MONDAY
Media coverage of National Independents’ Day was incredible and the PRAG group must be congratulated on building a strong consumer promotion to increase footfall in local independent stores.

We worked hard drumming up interest with our regulars who put in lots of effort getting their stores into good shape and using the NID promotional material.

Some retailers still haven’t woken up to what the ‘My Shop Is Your Shop’ campaign is all about, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and support will continue to grow.

Easter 2006 presentations from the confectioners did not seriously address the issue of Teen-eggs and their pricing which drove so much value out of our particular market.
Wholesalers and independent retailers need a re-think on the Easter opportunity. Could you come in on this, Mr Supplier? We can re-think ourselves if necessary.

Our view is that the consumer seeking a decent Easter egg this year was just swamped by cheap Teen-eggs.
At Drinksummit, Customs Excise were challenged to take tougher action against rogue traders whose below cost selling is decimating legitimate C C beer business. Asking retailers to call the Customs hot line to report suspicious activities (and lower prices), however, may be asking just a little too much.

TUESDAY
With the launch of the Magners Original Irish Cider brand, the second coming of the Gaymers Cider Company and Scotco repackaging Strongbow and launching a premium brand, the cider category is beginning to get interesting (and hopefully profitable) again.

Independents have dominated the cider market for years. We just hope the brand owners won’t forget what a brilliant job we have done for them.

The latest Walkers limited edition crisps linked to Heinz sauces should brighten up the snacking scene for the next few months. One problem we face with limited editions is finding space for them on our already overcrowded shelves.

Trade response to the Hula Hoops ‘Hunt the Hoops’ on-pack promotion has been very good. Like the Walkers 50p off Pepsi pack, both we and our retail customers are enjoying selling more product without having to discount the price.

WEDNESDAY
We’re only here for the beer and not the profit because it just isn’t there and if there was any real margin then it looks fragile.

Summer pricing of beer in the mults is knocking the stuffing out of our retailers’ trading on some brands – not all.
We are now getting the first indications of the beer strategies for Christmas and we are worried. Will one result be seen in retailers flying round the world using Clubcard Airmiles?
Thank goodness we have the Take Home Blueprint, objective industry best advice – and not a single company promotional device – to help our industry forward.

Take home beer sales have gone a little flat since the fine weather in early June. Retailers can’t be tempted to buy despite our keen prices. Our beer buyer thinks the current special offers are lacklustre, except for Carlsberg’s Win a Private Jet for a Week competition.

The trading team got really excited on hearing the news of London’s successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games and talked about how good the Games will be for business – then realised it is still seven years away.

Nothing like planning early, the boss says.

THURSDAY
With London and the Home Counties facing hose pipe bans, we have to smile about our present stock holding and current promotional opportunities for bottled water.

The best deal I can find is nine litres for £1.75. How long before we have to start rationing our customers?

Just when I suggest someone should invent a chewing gum that doesn’t stick (Diary, June 2005) – somebody did. How long will it take to get to market? The boffins in Wrigley’s R D are probably already on the case. Meanwhile, there are some great trade and consumer offers available from the masters of gum, including the new Hubba Bubba flavours and 10,000 iPod instant prizes on their best selling Extra sugar free range.

In today’s promotion planning meeting I was heartened to see more price-marked products coming through, particularly big brands like Tetley Tea Bags, Andrex, McVities, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Tango. Price marking is a powerful promotional device for our sector, and much preferred to extra fill. But PM has some problems on the delivered side. The Kraft portfolio is majestic and we want to work with them so much that it hurts. But the margins for delivered on their PM lines is, well, let’s say it’s a talking point.

Retailers should not be asked to work harder, selling more volume at reduced margins to maintain profitability.

FRIDAY
Nestlé has put together a brilliant package for the introduction of its new Wonka chocolate bars.

Given the level of trade support and in-store theatre Nestlé has created, particularly The Golden Ticket promotion, this brand is really going places.

Cigarettes. There’s a problem. The unnecessary low-price enthusiasts in our world could improve their own profitability if they read the market with a little more vision.

But raise a glass to E J Gallo who we see as succeeding in their strategy of getting some measure of control back in the pricing arena. But the stars do not seem to be shining on their competitor in this crucial aspect of trading for every wholesaler, cash and carry and delivered.

And finally, get your ticket booked for Catersummit at the Chesford Grange, Kenilworth, on October 3 4. A great meal is in prospect for the informal dinner – that’s just one of the reasons for booking today.

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