buyer’s diary

Litre bottles of Bell’s, Gordon’s Smirnoff, Bacardi and other leading spirit brands were on sale at Tesco for pound;13 over the Bank Holiday weekend, knocking between pound;7 to pound;10 off a bottle an amazing deal for consumers and publicans alike.

Who authorised this deal and how aware are they of the impact this will have on sales across the independent sector?

A symbol group customer in the cash and carry tells me his usual wholesaler has found a way to reduce delivery shortages by identifying undelivered lines as ‘not available’ or ‘out of stock’, using the latter as the measurement of non deliveries.

On his most recent delivery our friend says that of the 120 lines he ordered, 18 were not delivered. A sorry situation but one that brings extra business for us.

The Grocer’s recent Christmas Guide sent a tiny shiver down my spine from now on we are on a rollercoaster ride it’s back to school, harvest festival, Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night, Diwali, Christmas and New Year, and don’t forget the Rugby World Cup along the way. It seems like only yesterday we were looking forward to some lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. There’s still time for an Indian summer though. Just don’t mention cricket.

Tuesday

It appears I was not alone in questioning the ‘new and improved’ Twinings Earl Grey Tea Bag, prompting the question why, after 300 years of tea making passion, would they want to change it now?

Could reported increased sales over recent weeks have more to do with heavyweight promotional activity for the 200 bag size than the ‘oomph’ delivered by enhancing the flavour with bergamot and a squeeze of lemon?

‘When’sa your Dolmio Day?’ Mars marketing is again using upmarket newspapers and TV to promote its range of sauces but’ ain’er we gonna’ get weary soon of the cartoon grey haired old folk with dubious Italian accents?

Given the negative press recently, should I be surprised Birds Eye are continuing with their on pack voucher campaign for a free polar bear?

Waitrose has recently gained a lot of ‘street cred’ after listing wines from India, Croatia, Morocco and elsewhere. This is not new. Many good wine merchants and specialists have been pioneering ‘a world of wine’ for a few years now and we have been eagerly awaiting a full onslaught from both India and China.

Wednesday

Welcome back Campbell’s Soups. It made little sense when the brand was pulled several years ago. Will Heinz and other soup makers now invest more in the category?

The introduction of a new kitchen gadget that makes crisps in the microwave is hardly likely to worry the likes of Walkers or Kettle but the difference in the price of a kilo of crisps against a kilo of potatoes means it won’t take very long to recover the pound;7.99 outlay.

Leading confectionery suppliers are making news for various reasons. Nestl eacute; Confectionery announced a pound;2m media campaign to support its KitKat Pop Choc launch this week. Just how far Nestl eacute; can take this iconic pound;204m brand is anyone’s guess. Mars Bars have a Triple Choc limited edition, with claims that 98% of consumers will see the new pound;9m campaign.

Cadbury has reduced the size of its festive tins of chocolates, presumably to reach a more attractive and profitable price point but is this move necessary? Given the huge variance in retail pricing and special promotional activity that accompanies the leading brands from late summer on, I doubt if a lower price point will make much difference.

Thursday

It was a curious quarter page newspaper ad but I just had to read it. Kronenbourg 1664’s ‘How a beer can taste slow’ was out to convince me of its unique aromatic flavour.

I understand the message the taste of Michelob or Efes Pilsner from Turkey have the same effect on me after a long hot day.

A Halifax Home Insurance survey reveals nine out of 10 adults have used a discount voucher over the past year, with four in 10 people saying they relied on vouchers to subsidise their shopping bills.

Tesco not only uses the press (remember the recent Daily Mail pound;5-off vouchers), but also discount vouchers on non food purchases. Sainsbury’s is printing instant money-off vouchers on a wide range of products at the checkout, too, specifically targeted to individual customers based on their shopping habits. I got a 50p-off voucher for a 275ml Bacardi Mojito or Cuba Libra. Clever stuff.

Friday

Few children’s fruit drinks escaped criticism in a recent Daily Mail mauling which highlighted on both low fruit and added sugar content, and to potential health concerns.

The British Soft Drinks Association was quick to respond and defended its position by saying that all food and drink should be consumed as part of a balanced diet and that all children must drink enough to stay properly hydrated. Why are certain elements of the national press so keen to scaremonger?

A family friend runs an independent family store in a rural area just three miles from the location of a new Tesco outlet due to open at the end of September. He says that despite asking his wholesaler for some help, none has been forthcoming, either in building up trade ahead of the opening or in minimising the inevitable customer loss.

This store has invested heavily to improve facilities over the 50 years it has served its community and has built a successful business with a turnover of well over pound;1m a year. It’s hardly a new story but can the wholesale trade afford to stand by and watch small stores like this struggle for survival.

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