National Independents’ Week – the first ever generic seven-day sales platform

With the backing of the Council of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, the cash and carry and delivered wholesale sector has taken the principles of the My Shop Is Your Shop (MSYS) campaign by scruff of the neck with the decision to launch the first National Independents’ Week in 2007.

Evolving from the initial success of the embryo National Independents’ Day – launched in 2004 – the first ever seven-day promotional platform is timed for June 4 to 11.

NID proved that there was a growing legion of independent retailers who would form the vanguard of owner-managers of c-stores, newsagents and rural shops in supporting and participating in a national celebration of the value of the sole trader and family business in the local community.

NID pioneers and supporting wholesalers have set in stone an annual promotional event which will accumulate and increase consumer awareness of the independents’ role in the marketplace.

As a body of traders, independents lacked a cohesive generic PR voice until MSYS came along, with its unique slogan of “Local And Proud Of It”.

It is a slogan which the giant multiple corporations cannot pinch.

It is a slogan which identifies the local independent “living over the shop” as a member of the community, sharing with local families the experiences of that community and becoming involved in it.

Is the MSYS message getting through to the consumer?

As a trader, the independent retailer has the opportunity to demonstrate involvement in the neighbourhood by sponsorship of local activities, sports clubs, helping old folks’ organisations, “looking out” for the elderly and the vulnerable – a local shop has a constant flow of customers who inevitably take into the shop the latest news, bad or good, the latest issues and so on.

Since launch in 2004, an estimated 40 million consumer “hits” have been registered through the local, regional and national consumer media campaign.

Retailers and wholesalers have featured on radio and television news programmes putting across their message to the consumer – a positive value signal rather than a political protest against multiple domination which is a different campaign.

Is the MSYS message getting through to the retailers?

The evidence of this grows by the day – and the ways in which independents are expressing their community involvement are as varied as the business philosophies of the retailers themselves – no two are alike.

For example, George and Barbara Makinson, newsagents in Chorley Old Road, Bolton, are supporters of Bolton Wanderers and the Football In The Community (FITC) scheme which not only promotes soccer to young people but embraces social issues such as drug abuse, anti-social behaviour, respect for the elderly and healthy eating.

“We have a local problem caused by young people gathering on street corners and we all know what develops from this. FITC helps to promote ideas which curb these problems,” they said.

On NID 06, customers who bought a copy of the Bolton Evening News received a ticket to be redeemed at the shop for a free Mars Believe bar and a chance to win Wanderers shirts, scarves and key rings.

This type of local community involvement, organised by retailers who live in the community, is unique in that it is not organised or motivated by central management as part of a large-scale corporate image building exercise created by giant retailers to offset consumer unease or criticism.

It is activity that is motivated by the retailer’s interest in the issues of the locality in which they live – and as a retailer they have a store which is a natural focal point of the community. MSYS serves to package that focal point.

Seven days of activity in June in 2007 will give suppliers, wholesalers and retailers the biggest ever promotional platform on which the independent sector can achieve consumer focus. It’s a challenge that has been accepted.

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=== retailers support move to a week ===

Independents have welcomed the move to extend NID to become National Independents’ Week. Christine and Denis Lusby, of St Breward Stores, Bodmin, Cornwall, said that NIW was a “great idea”.

Carol Hardstaff, who runs a Londis at Woodland Grove, Nottingham, said: “I agree whole-heartedly. Many people want to support the independent but it is not always easy for them to get into the shop on one specific day.”

Retailers Mike Duffy, of The Square, Guildlford, and Darren Norman, Main Street, Farcet, Peterborough, emailed the campaign in support of a week.

Leamington Spa retailer Sunder Sandher, a member of the PRAG committee which agreed the move to a week, said: “This will give retailers the opportunity to wear the special T-shirts and use other promotional materials for seven days rather than the one day. It will make a much greater impact on the consumer – which is what we are all seeking.”

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