In a declining market Parfetts has been able to increase its turnover on tobacco, and Paul Mason, general manager of the Aintree depot, believes Gallaher can share in the credit for this achievement.
He says: “Parfetts in general are running at growth across tobacco products which is amazing given the climate. Part of that is attributable to the support we get from the suppliers, particularly Gallaher. They have done a lot of work both in this depot and in our sister depot in Anfield. They are very proactive.”
One of the names that crops up repeatedly when discussing tobacco with the Parfetts team is Geoff Rowley, Gallaher’s recently retired multiple account executive, who managed the Parfetts account. Mason says: “Geoff came and said his goodbyes and introduced the new chap Trevor Pearson, which in today’s business model is quite unique. You don’t get this old-fashioned handover.
“There are a handful of suppliers we have that personal relationship with. That local contact is very important.
“Geoff’s main contact here was our tobacco buyer, and he needn’t have, but he kept me very well informed, dropping into my office and bringing me up to date with developments.”
One of the ways in which Parfetts and Gallaher work together is through Gallaher’s area development representatives who take stock from the Aintree depot to sell on to retailers. Mason says it helps to increase overall tobacco sales through the depot, but also helps to encourage customers to come to the depot to re-stock the products. He says: “It’s very easy for the suppliers just to launch a new product and leave us to get on with it, but although we would do our best I think Gallaher’s way proves to be a lot better. They are selling to a group of people on the road and the retailer than comes into here to buy.
“They are very proactive telling us what’s coming up on promotion, what they are pushing, and that helps us in our ordering plans because there is nothing worse than finding that the car sales are pushing something specific then we run out of stock. They are very good at liaison and communication.”
The two companies have also worked together on initiatives inside the depots, but trading manager Paul Bond says the way Parfetts sells tobacco has provided an extra challenge. At both Aintree and Anfield tobacco is sold to customers via an over-the-counter service, where they hand over order sheets and collect their order after doing the rest of their shop. Bond says customers are happy with the counter service and they like the staff, but customers can see little of the tobacco behind the counter, so it is difficult to generate impulse purchases. He explains: “One of our depots has a walk-round cigarette booth and it has stayed that way because that was the way it was when we bought it, and at that depot we have impulse purchase. When we put a special display on a rack end it encourages the retailer to pick something up whereas in the other five depots we haven’t got that and there’s very little in impulse purchases.”
With any other product the obvious answer would be advertising, but Steve Dyas, business development manager with Gallaher, points out that the legislation surrounding advertising of tobacco means this has to be handled very carefully, even within a depot.
Only customers responsible for buying tobacco should be able to see tobacco promotions, so even advertising on the front of the tobacco desk is out because customers in the rest of the depot would be able to see it. The only way to communicate with customers buying tobacco, was by developing a promotion that could be seen behind the counter and this was done with a stand developed by Gallaher and Landmark Wholesale, which Parfetts is a member of. Bond says: “It’s the ideal way to do it. It’s behind the staff who are serving and it’s right in the eye-line of the customer. If we have a special offer on we can build a display there and create some impact.”
Gallaher has also worked with Parfetts to improve the order form customers hand in at the tobacco counter. Previously each depot had its own order form, with each one slightly different because each depot stocks a slightly different range. Now a universal order form is being introduced showing the full range stocked across the Parfetts estate. Bond says it means Parfetts will be able to provide a wider range to customers.
The biggest joint project between the two companies was recently carried out at the Anfield depot, which had a tightly packed tobacco counter providing customers with a particularly restricted view of the products. Bond says the concept, a complete makeover for the tobacco area, was proposed by Steve Dyas and Geoff Rowley.
Dyas says: “One of things we wanted to do was introduce new lighting so customers could see the product. We also worked with Parfetts to come up with a planogram using a full category management approach covering all the tobacco manufacturers.”
The proposed planogram was presented to John Ewart, general manager of the Anfield depot, and senior buyer John Trueman, and Ewart says that only a few minor changes were needed to take into account particular preferences of customers at his depot. In addition to the new layout, light boxes were introduced above the shelving providing an additional opportunity to promote Gallaher products.
Ewart says: “The customers used to come with their order forms and that was it in the past, they just handed them in. They couldn’t really see anything apart from the major lines.
“But now they are standing there and looking and that’s what’s increased our sales. They can see product they thought we didn’t sell or they didn’t turn over the page and have a look at it, so visually it has helped.”
Another benefit is a much better environment behind the counter. He says: “Before everything was squeezed in. It’s much better working conditions for the staff.”
Bond confirms that tobacco sales have increased substantially at Anfield since the makeover, averaging 15% up week on week. He says Parfetts will wish to review the results over a longer time frame, but if it proves its worth the company will consider a similar move at another of its depots.