review

The perceived wisdom of most leading commentators on the financial scene is that the next few months are likely to be the roughest yet for the UK economy. Despite the fact that every mainstream forecaster got 2008 wrong, their current collective opinion looks about right. Even though the food industry is somewhat protected by our fundamental need to eat to live, wholesalers are also expecting a rocky ride, especially through the early part of 2009. It is in effect a time for businesses to ‘hunker down’ as our American cousins would say.

The Oxford English Dictionary has a fine description of how to hunker: “squat, with the haunches, knees, and ankles acutely bent, so as to bring the hams near the heels, and throw the whole weight upon the fore part of the feet”. The advantage of this position is that you are not only crouched close to the ground, so presenting a small target for whatever the universe chooses to throw at you, but you are also ready to move at a moment’s notice.

This chimes well with an important trait that our industry is noted for. Wholesalers have always displayed a chameleon-like ability to move quickly to adapt to changing conditions – and so they will be adjusting their offerings to help their customers through these tougher times. This applies equally to the specialist foodservice operators in our industry.

On the retail side of the Features > Business, wholesalers’ promotional programs are being tailored to allow independents good value offering across their stores. It is also important for smaller grocery retailers to maintain a point of difference – and that is where the Federation of Wholesale Distributors’ My Shop is Your Shop activity can help independent c-stores, newsagents and rural shops. They will again have the support this year of positive, footfall-driving marketing platforms created by the MSYS campaign.

For example, in the next few weeks MSYS will re-launch its Walk Shop activity that gives independents a real and positive, money-saving proposition for their communities. The two-pronged message that this campaign delivers encourages shoppers to ditch the car and shop locally, just in time for their daily grocery needs. The cost saving aspect is simple to propose and easy to comprehend – it is, avoid wasting food by over-buying at the superstores and also save on petrol costs. Additionally, Walk Shop gives independents a unique environmental platform through the related reduction in carbon emissions.

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