Spirits soar in Blueprint test

Astore taking part in a nationwide trial designed to increase independent retail sales of spirits sold more 70cl bottles in the two months post-Christmas than it did in the festive period itself. The success has been achieved by transferring spirits from behind the counter to open shelves near the till. Loss of profit through theft has been recorded as nil.

Independent retailers are cautious when it comes to displaying high value products in their shops. Shrinkage is not welcome – shoplifting and other forms of theft can be a problem. But a problem is often an opportunity and the Blueprint for Spirits and Fortified Wines team at IMA, the Manchester agency which implements the Blueprint activity in the marketplace, decided that the independent sector needed a new approach for spirits.

This resulted in PLOD, a scheme for Putting Leaders On Display. The leaders in question are the major spirits brands which are in consumer demand. The creative approach was to transfer these 70cl bottles from the display cabinet behind the counter to open shelves in the shop near the till.


To deter thieves, a security cap is fixed to the top of each bottle. The cap is safely and easily removed by the retailer when the bottle is purchased. The only way the consumer can remove the cap is by smashing the bottle – thus removing any motivation to steal the product.

The security caps are supplied by Colindale Associates, the UK suppliers of the Alpha system under which a cap releaser fixed at the till is used to remove the cap. A number of stores throughout the country are taking part in a trial under the code name PLOD – an experiment designed to test the advantages of putting 70cl spirits bottles on open shelves near the till.

Early results from one store reveal that PLOD has increased spirits sales very significantly – results which if rolled out nationally will revolutionise the independent spirits market. Sunder Sandher runs a Londis store in Leamington Spa and he reports that he is “very happy ” with the higher sales achieved by implementation of PLOD. Dave Batt, controller for the Blueprint for Spirits and Fortified Wines at IMA, describes how the trial was introduced into Sundar’s store.


“Sunder and his staff were briefed on fitting the caps and the simple release mechanism. A new four metre fixture was put up close to the till, taking space from an overlarge range of magazines. It was stocked with 70cl and one litre sizes of spirits plus a small selection of champagnes.

“Fractionals were remerchandised behind the till and new free space behind the till was restocked with home medicines, making these more secure.”

Sunder and his staff were fully briefed on the objectives of the PLOD trial and the necessity to sustain it over the agreed trial period. The results so far indicate that independent retailers such as Sunder using the system can sell more spirits in January and February than they can achieve in the Christmas period.

“My EPOS figures show sales of spirits in January and February are ahead in both volume and value of the period prior to Christmas. Further, spirits sales are up 26.8% in volume and 20.6% in value when compared with the same average sales in the corresponding period of 2005,” says Sunder.

As in every similar independent retail outlet, sales are normally quiet after Christmas, so Sunder is more than pleased with the results of the PLOD test so far. “In addition, sales of fractionals which are now properly merchandised behind the counter according to the Blueprint planogram layout have also increased. These fractionals now have more visibility than they did when they were alongside the 70cls,” he adds.


Batt comments: “We have trials going on in several other locations and we hope to get the results of these soon so that we are in a position to report on PLOD at Drinksummit.” The conference takes place this year at The Oxford Belfry, just off the M40, on June 8 9.

Alan Toft, chairman of the Blueprint Initiatives, says: “We could be on the brink of a revolution in the way in which spirits are merchandised in our sector, but we will have to wait for a full analysis of all the PLOD trials which are taking place.

“I believe PLOD will reveal new strategies which will benefit the wholesale/independent market. We acknowledge the contribution of supportive suppliers in this educational programme which is bringing benefits to local shops at a time when they are most needed.” These suppliers will be given the analysis of the PLOD trials just prior to any official announcement.


=== Blueprint integrity is demonstrated again ===

Alan Toft, chairman of the FWD Blueprint Initiatives, says the PLOD activity demonstrates again that the Blueprints are the only independent platforms for supportive suppliers and wholesalers working on an educational basis.

Blueprint guidance is based on independent market research data that indicates the brands that are in consumer demand. The Blueprint for Wine, and those for ARTDs and spirits, have been added to the portfolio which was launched in 1994 with the first Take Home Blueprint for Ales, Lagers and Ciders.

Toft says: “These activities are entirely independent of sponsored sole brand promotional activities which are based on brand aspirations only. The integrity of the Blueprints has been proved time and time again by the case studies which have been published continuously since 1994.

“These case studies demonstrate for everyone to see just how effective the Blueprint principles are when they are put into practice at retail level. I know of no other merchandising scheme in the total grocery and drinks trade which has been the subject of such a large number of case studies.”


=== PLOD means putting leaders on display ===

IMA Group, the Manchester agency which handles the Blueprint field implementation for the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, became fully aware of the inhibition on spirits sales caused by display behind the counter when it analysed various retail off licence sales records.

Dave Batt, controller for the Blueprint for Spirits and Fortified Wines, says: “At IMA we have confidential insight into sales achieved by independent retailers who trust us with the figures because they know we are their friends and we are here to help. During one of our creative thinktank sessions it became clear that we had to find a new way of selling 70cls which are high priced items and therefore attractive to thieves.

“PLOD, which means Putting Leaders On Display, is our answer, working in co-operation with the Alpha security cap system marketed in the UK by Colindale Associates.

“Spirits can be sold from open shelves near the till which can be supervised from the till position. But we do not know just what it means in overall terms yet. By removing 70cls from behind the counter we are giving spirits a better chance of being sold.”

He explains: “The bottles are ‘to hand’ so to speak – you do not need to crane your neck or look round the member of the staff who perhaps is obscuring the display behind the counter. We believe at this stage that by intelligent implementation of PLOD we are on the verge of a new peak in spirits sales by our sector, but we need more analysis to be definite.”

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