Retailers want MSYS

A telephone survey has revealed massive support by independent retailers for the My Shop Is Your Shop (MSYS) campaign. They are urging every wholesaler to get behind the generic PR activity designed to highlight the value of the local independent to the community.

Staff at the headquarters of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors discovered the high level of retailer support during a canvassing exercise. Retailers are increasingly recognising the FWD as champions of the independent retailer, uncompromised as the Federation is by multiple associations.

Telephone calls to independents throughout the UK asking them to join the national network of local media spokespeople for National Independents’ Day (NID) on June l brought enthusiastic responses.

More than 100 calls made so far to independents revealed that retailers were anxious about one thing – the level of support for MSYS they receive from their wholesaler.

They were assured that most wholesalers were actively planning MSYS activity with special emphasis on NID on June l. This information will be revealed by wholesalers to retailers in relevant promotional communications.

Nikki Connor and Nicola Akehurst, the team calling independents from the FWD offices at Eastbourne, were delighted with the enthusiasm demonstrated by the retailers who were very much aware of the campaign. Nikki Connor said: “It is clear that independents understood that MSYS is in its infancy having been launched only last year.

“They saw that even on its launch a lot was achieved especially on local radio but now they are seeking information from their wholesalers on how they will be taking advantage of the media PR campaign. We got the distinct impression that independents feel they are being left behind in the public relations arena which the giant superstores seem to control completely,” she added.
The My Shop Is Your Shop campaign was launched by FWD, with financial support from wholesalers and enlightened suppliers, as a launch pad to enhance consumer appreciation of the value of the local independent to the local community.

It is an on-going campaign with a central focus on June l as the annual National Independents’ Day. This is designed as a celebration of the sole trader and family business as an integral part of the local neighbourhood.

In 2004, the first year of the activity, more than 12 million “consumer hits” were recorded on local, regional and national media on and before June l. The message to shoppers during live interviews on local radio and by the use of pre-recorded tapes was simple. It reminded them that their local independent was not part of a giant corporate but part of their local community, sharing local neighbourhood experiences and supplying the everyday needs of local people – the words local, family business and independent being the key message bearers.

This is how wholesalers are putting clear blue water between the genuine independents they supply and the giant retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, Morrisons, the Co-op and the oil company managed stores which are encroaching on traditional independent retailing territory.

Independent retailer attitudes to the MSYS campaign and NID were evaluated during the FWD exercise of setting up a national network of retailers who will be the potential local spokesmen for MSYS in the run-up to and on June l. This network is not yet complete – there are gaps which need to be filled over the next weeks.

It is something of a lottery, but when PR campaigns of this kind are set up it is important that local radio stations can be guided to their local independents who can speak up for the sector. Wholesalers – the only operators who can drive this kind of activity – have suggested independents who have good community links and who are enthusiastic “community stars” who will handle a local radio interview to advantage.

Each retailer on the network will receive a tool kit of ideas for in-store theatre for the run-up to and including June l. The tool kit will also contain guidance on how to use local media to best effect.

Nexus, the top London PR consultancy, is the guiding hand for MSYS. For example, among the “don’t do’s” they recommend that if the local radio station does ask for an interview for June l then the independent does not waste a valuable three minutes complaining that the Tesco superstore up the road is cutting prices of this and that, so giving Tesco even more free publicity.

The network member will be asked to promote the store as an irreplaceable part of the local community, providing what the neighbourhood needs but also being involved in local activities, with a friendly disposition to local customers some of whom are alone and often rely on social contact at their local shop.
This is the unique selling point of the genuine local independent sole trader and family business which cannot be copied by the superstore satellite convenience store.

In the former where the family often live over the shop, the interface and interdependence between the business and the customer is uniquely personal and inter-twined with the neighbourhood. In the latter, the manager may be on the best of terms with his customers and his staff may be local, but the culture of his business is not personal – he reports to a distant management structure which sets the agenda for the store.

The sole trader and family business and the local community together set the agenda for the genuine independent retailer.
This is the big difference between the independent retailer – whose business forms the core turnover for most cash and carry and delivered wholesalers – and the giant corporate retailers and their local shops.

This is why genuinely supportive suppliers, wholesalers and their customers need to recognise MSYS as a long-term public relations activity which will engage with the public’s growing suspicion of the power of the giant retailers.

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