MSYS is not altruism-it’s a hard sell

It was a visit to a Lincolnshire independent retailer which galvanised my thinking about the way in which the FWD My Shop Is Your Shop campaign, with its “Local and proud of it” slogan, has evolved.

Launched in 2004, MSYS was a campaign with attitude – but was this too sentimental, was it resonating with the ‘corner shop’ and ‘Open All Hours’?

East Barkwith, near Market Rasen, has the good fortune to have David James Ward as its local independent grocer, newsagent, tobacconist and off licencee and he was the retailer who hosted my visit.

The platform was the presentation of a cheque to David as the winner of a MSYS competition designed to encourage retailers into more involvement in their local communities.

David submitted a professional presentation outlining his reasons for splitting his pound;750 winnings between three local amenities – the community centre, the swimming pool and the local school. The local paper sent a reporter to cover the story of the presentation – David had alerted them to it.

David Ward has been using the principles of MSYS for his retailing career. He is 110% involved in the local neighbourhood. He knows local institutions. He talks to his customers.

David sources mainly from Booker Cash Carry in nearby Lincoln. His main road location gives him good exposure to passing trade, but his living comes from the locals.

OWNER IS INVOLVED

When they are talking about local issues, which is often, customers are buying products. The till rings frequently.

And it’s busy because of community. It’s busy because, unlike a corporate satellite c-store, the owner manager decides who he talks to (everybody), for how long he talks to them and so on.

He does not have the corporate disciplines centred on staff productivity to contend with – or a marketing agenda set down by a distant head office with targets.

In the MSYS culture, the sole trader or family business can decide to sponsor a local junior soccer team, re-paint the village hall, look out for the old and vulnerable.

Here was proof that MSYS is a hard sell. The Ward store is busy because the owner is involved in the community and the community is involved with his store. The link between David’s business and his customers is cast in steel.

WHOLESALERS’ JOB

By the promotion of community marketing, wholesalers can inspire retailers to review their business and to analyse where they can become more involved in their local communities.

There is money in this – turnover is lurking in the streets seeking a home in the tills of local independent retailers who are missing out on the one opportunity that the corporates cannot match. This is the personal interface with neighbours which comes from “living over the shop”. Trading follows naturally.

David Ward is a huge MSYS enthusiast. He has been since it was launched in 2004. He believes it is making a difference and he will be up for National Independents’ Week.

MSYS is the only generic consumer and trade PR and marketing support campaign in existence.

What happened pre-MSYS has not worked. Shops have and are closing. MSYS brings a change in strategy, a new mind-set. A change of pace to a sector which is under the cosh.

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