Buyer’s Diary

MONDAY
What a brilliant idea from MSYS to support National Independents’ Day with a press coupon promotion to drive footfall into the local independent store

The products are everyday lines and with a total coupon value of nearly £2, it would pay to buy an extra copy of the Daily Mirror or Daily Record and double up on the savings. We are making sure our retailer customers capitalise on this activity and will be building big in-depot displays of the coupon brands.

Price isn’t everything. You only have to look at the most recent Grocer 33 to realise that you can be over 18% more expensive on a shopping basket compared to other major multiples yet still be one of the most successful food retailers in the country. Waitrose says it will ‘dominate’ on product and ‘differentiate’ on service ‘in tackling consumer perceptions of the price/value dynamics’. Good marketing speak yet a useful lesson for our customers.

The local independent store is capable of achieving so much more trade, not by competing on price but by providing good service and civility.

We are pleased to see McVitie’s stepping up the action with 99p price-marked packs of their popular milk chocolate Digestives and HobNobs. Sales have picked up well across the range.

TUESDAY
Ferrero has thought of everything to ensure the successful launch of its delicious new Giotto wafer bites.

The so-called ‘pleasure’ countline market is very buoyant and its £3m spend including TV and a sampling programme is the perfect way to get Giotto moving off the shelf. Nice touch, too, providing retail POS to stores via the trade press.

You have to smile – but at a time when we are frantically reviewing our ARTD range in the light of a further 10% fall in Features > Business, Asda announces it plans to introduce new flavour variants this year. ‘Crying out for innovation’, they say. Has any drinks market ever been subject to so much innovation over recent years? I think not.

The FWD Annual Conference at The Belfry was one of the best ever. The agenda suggested the occasional opportunity for a nap – but that proved impossible as speaker after speaker punched home strong positive messages. Ours is such a vibrant sector I wonder why we don’t make more of the amazing talent we have within it! I would have liked to have seen more wholesalers in the audience – and on stage.

WEDNESDAY
It is easy to forget the importance of catering and foodservice to our overall business because both customers and the media make little of their needs, resulting in general indifference to this highly profitable part of our trade.

Why is it we continue to pursue our major retail customers yet hardly know who our major catering customers are? Where is the profit in cash and carry these days? The same place it has always been – in catering!

Lindemans is making a very welcome entry into the low price Australian market with basic red and white Cawarra Classic Selection wines, a move that will surely shift a lot of volume and have a spin-off benefit for its range of Cawarra dual varietals.

We are glad to have the strength of Pedigree Petfoods behind us to provide regular strong promotional activity on leading brands. Its four for the price of three Whiskas deal really will generate a lot of extra business. If only there were more major businesses like it in tune with our market place.

The £5,000 Premier Foods shop makeover promotion is a substantial investment and we hope many independents will want to apply before the July closing date.

THURSDAY
Late to work, I heard a discussion on the radio about Tesco telling its hauliers (who pick up goods at the factory gate for them) to lower transport costs by 15%.

“More efficient delivery is good for the environment and good for customers” said the PR lady from Potters Bar. Ah, well, every little helps when you are struggling to make a profit, I say.

As the Tetley brand moves in on speciality teas, up comes Twinings with an attractive entry into the everyday tea market. Good price, respectable margin, a great TV campaign and free sample sachets in popular magazines. An excellent launch, but how soon will it be before the extra free pack arrives? Twinings’ new range of iced teas looks good too, but this is a tough market for independents.

Rustlers, the 70-second quick microwave meal, has been a fantastic seller for us and its new TV campaign will help us maintain a strong focus on our chilled foods offering.

FRIDAY
Horrified. That was the look on our wine buyer’s face when he opened up his quality daily to see Tesco offering a 35% discount on all Australian and New Zealand wines over a three-week promotional period.

And then there’s Thresher’s wine and champagne offer of ‘buy two and get the third’ free on everything in the shop, which looks equally enticing – until you see the high price per bottle, that is.

We are urging customers to make the most of our many special wine deals by passing on the extra value to consumers, which will greatly lessen the impact of these barmy multiple activities.

At home this week I received a letter from the publisher of our local weekly newspaper offering home delivery on the day of publication for 20 pence less than the price charged by my local independent newsagent and general store.

What on earth is this publisher trying to achieve by disenfranchising local independents?

Heineken is challenging Stella on the taste front and offering consumers their money back if they don’t enjoy their lager. Stella is such a strong brand in the UK take-home market that we are not surprised at Heineken’s current approach. It’s a tough task for them but how else do you unseat a winning brand?

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