In the centrepiece of Drinksummit, six retailers talked about their businesses and what they were looking for from wholesalers and suppliers.
First up was Terry Fieldhouse, from TC’s Mini Market in Rotherham. He said that unfortunately drinks reps hardly existed any more so retailers were not being alerted to promotions as they were coming up. He suggested a range of ways in which suppliers could let retailers know, including mobile phone texts, email and even running the ads in cash and carry depots so retailers could see them.
He also suggested that drinks companies should work specifically with independent retailers on a Drinkaware campaign. He said local shops were often the scapegoat when young people obtained alcohol at supermarkets.
Addressing suppliers he said: “Independent retailers know the kids and the schools. What better people are there to promote Drink Aware. Work with local retailers who can work with the schools.
Julie and Ollie Hutchinson, who run Boscaswell Stores in Pendeen, Cornwall, said the Blueprint had really made a difference to their business.
Julie explained that the Blueprint had been very helpful when they first opened and gave them the confidence to expand. She added: “Where Blueprint has really made an impact is in our sales and profits. A year ago, our sales of beers wines and spirits accounted for 13% of our turnover between March and end May. From pound;23, 271, sales have now increased to pound;33,072 over the same period this year, 14.3% of our turnover.
“Our general increase has been 30% but alcohol has increased by 42%. We are on-stream to hit pound;1m turnover this year… and we know we can do more by further developing our alcohol range.
“Next on the list is spirits and we are confident that we will get the right advice from Blueprint.”
Mark Johnson, who runs Celebrations in Stockport also paid tribute to the Blueprint. Even though he had previously been a rep in the drinks industry, he said that when he opend his store in September 2004 he quickly realised he needed help with layout and merchandising.
One of the lessons he said he had learned was that if the retailer does not cater for the lowest demographic the customer will trade up. He also learned about wine so he could offer advice to customers, a service that the multiples could not offer. And he said that he always looked out for price marked packs because these gave reassurance to customers.
Steve Morris, who runs a Londis store in Dorrington near Shrewsbury, said he had removed all alcopops and white cider from his off licence in order to concentrate on “Mr and Mrs average customers. Mr X likes a quality ale and his wife a chilled bottle of chardonnay.”
He said: “The wine section especially is often used by customers to discuss with me their requirements and with this in mind I am planning to attend a Londis wine course to increase my knowledge in this key area. Product information cards are used on key wine lines to increase customer awareness and spotlights have been added to the section giving it a relaxed and quality feel.”
Turning to what suppliers could do to help his Features > Business, he said: “Suppliers must involve themselves with us instore, providing up-to-date information on trends, promotions and industry development with personal visits to our stores and not aggressive telesales techniques.”
And he added: “We need help with displays and installation of branded refrigeration to develop sales in professional and eye-catching ways.”
Mandeep Singh, who runs a Premier store in Sheffield, had advice for suppliers about promotions. He said: “The deals that work best for our customers are free gifts – whether it’s T-shirts, bottle openers or glasses – our customers trade up for them and it’s a reason for them to come to us instead of going to the multiples.
“For us, as independents, to attract shoppers to our store we have to do things differently to the multiples and we need the support of suppliers to keep making alcohol a destination category for us.
“When we promote with give-aways our sales of that product can increase by over 80%. This has benefits for all of us – your brands gain better distribution and greater awareness – we increase our sales and drive loyalty… so everyone wins. Our best promotions this year through Premier have been the free glass give-away with John Smiths, Kronenbourg and Bulmers.
Ian Taylor, from Key Store in Portgordon, north Scotland, said all independent retailers could benefit from the assistance wholesalers and suppliers offer. He added: “The Take Home Blueprint, shy;the only initiative to hear my plea for assistance, has transformed my alcohol business.”