Local and proud of it!

The My Shop Is Your Shop (MSYS) campaign, initiated by the Federation of Wholesale Distributors and driven by the FWD PR Action Group (PRAG) is focusing on two areas for the run up to National Independents’ Day on June l.

At its recent meeting held at the offices of Costco Wholesale, Watford, the group debated two linked issues – how to focus on the community value of the independent retailer and how to produce new and interesting research into how consumers seek diversity and choice and why they will support the independent.
The mission statement of PRAG is simple, it is “To identify and promote genuine independent retailers, sole traders or family businesses, and their value in their local community”.

These retailers form the biggest proportion of cash and carry and delivered business. What is now arising from the valuable debates held by PRAG, and held nowhere else, by PR and marketing professionals who put the wider interest of the wholesale sector ahead of company concerns, is the actual commercial value of the community aspect of the independent’s business.

Where the owner of the local store understands their place in the local community, in the neighbourhood, among other families who share the same day-to-day life experience, one can be sure that the store in commercially successful.

BEATING THE SUPERSTORE
Members of PRAG have reiterated time and again their belief that the genuine local independent can link into their neighbourhood to a far greater degree than many are doing at the moment.
Imagine this. The superstore-owned local shop will be managed by a corporate man. He will get his orders from a corporate structure. This is part and parcel of large retail corporations and inherent in their structure. It is not a criticism but a reality.
On the other hand, the local store owned by the person “behind the counter” and living over the shop with their family (the children will mix with his customers’ kids at school) can afford to think about their community credentials as a top business and leisure priority.

COMMUNITY MEANS BUSINESS
There is a business aspect here. Community means business. It is not a hobby. PRAG is working to analyse this opportunity, to identify its best elements and then to promote them in a professional manner through the offices of Nexus, the London consumer PR consultancy who are top flight operators in this art.
The Watford meeting discussed and later acted on a report by Nexus on the growing consumer anxiety about the loss of identity and individualism on the high street and in the suburbs.
Why is every high street becoming the same, why is this sameness and homogeny creeping into the suburbs?
Wholesalers have on their side a lot of popular opposition to decreasing diversity. On Channel 4 News Jon Snow is known as anti-superstore, and you can travel across the media spectrum to Neil Collins, city editor of the right wing free enterprise bible, The Daily Telegraph, who is not an enthusiast of market domination.

HARNESSING THE CONSUMER
At it next meeting PRAG will have a report in front of it on how consumer anxieties can best be represented as a reason for the local independent store to take advantage of the consumer mood – graphically embraced in the Mclibel Two.
This concerned the support of the European Court for the couple who distributed uncomplimentary leaflets about McDonald’s. The couple lost in an English libel court, but the EU court said their human rights had been infringed because they were not granted legal aid. A victory for the small people lobby who are taking on the corporates. It is a trend.

MEMBERS OF PRAG
Barrie Breward (Nisa-Today’s), Becky Campbell (Nisa-Today’s), James Hall (Bestway), Geoff Monk (Bestway), Graham Shelley (IMA), Emma Sadler (IMA, Parfetts), Ray Donelan (Landmark), Michael Saxton (Key Lekkerland), Sue Knowles (Costco Wholesale), Virginie White (Musgrave Budgens-Londis), Rosie McFarlane (Musgrave Budgens-Londis), Alan Twigg (Nexus), Louise Stone (Nexus), Ann Merritt (FWD), Catherine Tong (NFRN), Sean Carter (Rural Shops Alliance), Trevor Dixon (Rural Shops Alliance), Zenon Gray (iStore Media), Adam Whalley (Makro), Barry Wallis (Spar).

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