Buyer’s Diary

MONDAY
I urgently checked the calendar – surely it wasn’t April 1st. The Telegraph headline read “BT to sell sweets”, converting old telephone boxes into sweet kiosks and installing vending machines.

No joke, it would appear – and hardly good news for local CTNs. We wonder who will supply the stock and just how safe it will be given the vandalism around these days. We shall keep a close watch on the West Midlands trial – and wonder what will happen to the chocolate bars on those really steamy sunny days.
Thanks, Britvic, for your excellent ‘Thirst’ pull-out magazine (and sporting calendar for 2005), again reminding retailers (and us) of the potential for a well-merchandised soft drinks section. We will encourage customers to take part in their touring one-day seminars in June.

A year on since the failure of Coca-Cola’s Dasani, Britvic’s relaunch of Ben Shaw’s Pennine Spring Waters into the independent sector exclusively through cash and carries is an interesting move which we hope will work. Not that we need another bottled water, but then why should Nestlé Waters have it all their own way?

The massive investment from Heinz behind its Mean Beanz launch should give the brand a big lift. But will the nation eat more beanz in the long run?

TUESDAY
Accusations that supermarket buyers are behaving unreasonably towards their suppliers are not unusual.

Now the finger is being pointed at a recently merged major cash and carry business.

The recent OFT audit cleared the supermarkets from any wrong doing and the cash and carry company is more than capable of defending itself given the level playing fields issue over trading terms. We have no problem with suppliers standing firm against unreasonable and unjustifiable demands – as long as their terms are fair and equitable in the first place. Jim Dowd MP of the all-party Small Shops Group would like to see an ombudsman appointed to ensure supplier and public interests are protected against the might of the Giant 1 and Big 3, as he puts it.

Multiple PR big guns fire off again with Asda and Tesco cutting the price of 1,300 products between them – and the rest will probably join in the battle. Do we assume these retailers are sacrificing their own margins – or have suppliers once again been nobbled?

The take home beer market has gone very quiet in recent weeks. Where have all the great deals gone? Given the above-inflation price rises in February and the speed at which prices increased post budget, brewers appear to be taking extra profit out of the market.

WEDNESDAY
So, Gordon Brown ignored my plea last month to leave wine duty alone in the Budget – but spared the whisky houses yet again as I predicted. A Scotsman looking after the Scots – and the Scotch.

Tobacco and cigarette smugglers got an extra bonus, too. Thank you, Gordon. Your duty price rise per packet may be small but bootleggers’ revenues will increase substantially.

Easter came and went, and so did nearly all of the seasonal confectionery, thank goodness. There were some fantastic deals in the multiples again this year. Some of our customers dived down to Woolies, Somerfield and Asda to buy up stock – can’t blame them given the price points, but it is madness, really. We are beginning to think that Easter confectionery is becoming far too expensive. Unless manufacturers rethink their pricing strategies this market could, in the long run, lose out if the public choose to give longer lasting gifts instead of chocolate in the future.

Some of my colleagues are saying that Threshers is a threat to our customers – based on its latest wine offer. It’s a third bottle free on any wine or champagne when you buy two.

But with Unwin’s under new ownership and Bargain Booze up for sale, we can see excellent opportunities for switched-on independents to grab additional off licence business at the expense of these specialists.

THURSDAY
You can hardly blame Sainsbury’s for exploiting its Calais wine connections.

We’ve just seen its latest Channel Hoppers guide in which it features 60% off, half price, six for four and buy one get one free offers on leading brands. Now they are offering a superb ferry deal, just £25 return for a car and up to nine passengers (big car obviously!). What a pity consumers can’t shop on line to order these deals for home delivery. Don’t EU rules allow for free movement of goods between member countries?

It’s good to see GSK putting massive support behind Lucozade and Ribena brands for our sector. Their well structured promotions will pull through volume, give consumers great value, and deliver respectable shared margins for both wholesaler and retailer.

Support for National Independents’ Day on June 1 and the My Shop is Your Shop campaign is building well. We believe there will be significantly more retailers participating this time, and as media activity unfolds we invite suppliers to play their part.
Why not get all of your field sales people to visit local independent stores in the run-up period and promote the My Shop is Your Shop message?

That really would make a difference.

FRIDAY
Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver’s high-profile push to improve the quality of school dinners may be good news for foodservice wholesalers.

They could benefit from increased revenue through higher spend on meals but, like school vending machines, local
CTN/c-stores may be losers if better meals leads to fewer lunch boxes and reduced snacking.

The programme for FWD’s Annual Conference at The Belfry on April 19 looks very exciting. The presence on-stage of leading on-line wholesaler Blueheath, plus contributions from Makro, Landmark, Nisa-Todays and Musgrave Budgens-Londis, provides this conference with its strongest-ever wholesale focus. This is an event not to be missed.

Is there any limit to the imagination and creativity of the take home brewers? Aren’t Brazil’s main claims to fame its coffee, nuts, corned beef and World Cup soccer? Why then has Interbrew decided to trial Brahma premium Brazilian Beer in the UK, with a possible national launch in the autumn?

Opportunities in the on-trade are strictly limited. How many pubs and bars offer a wide choice of lagers these days? In retail, given limitation of shelf space and easy access to aggressively priced branded products, can we afford to accommodate yet another relatively unknown product? Whatever happened to those New Zealand, South African, Mexican, Peruvian and Japanese lagers?

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