Sweet success in the confectionery aisle

Premier Wholesale already squeezes impressive sales out of its 17,500sq ft cash and carry warehouse at Harrow, in west London, but in partnership with Mars Impulse it has been able to significantly increase turnover in its confectionery aisle.

Premier director Raj Samani says: “Confectionery is huge for us. It really seems to have taken off in the last year.” A lot of the credit for this, he says, is down to a local initiative by Mars, which included work in the depot and with retailers who are members of Premier’s symbol group, am2pm. He adds: “Sales have grown by 25% in depot and it has helped pull through sales of Cadbury and Nestl eacute; Rowntree products too.”

Peter Morris, regional account manager for Mars’ parent Masterfoods, explains that the partnership with Premier began about two years ago when Mars Impulse started its feet on the street campaign. This was when it arranged for sales teams to visit 40,000 independent retailers every four to six weeks.

Morris was talking to Raj Samani and Premier’s senior buyer Babu Jamil about how they could work more closely together and arranged for a team from Mars Impulse to visit the Premier depot. They made a presentation to the team at Premier about what they could offer, and discussed ways the two companies could work together, and the relationship developed from there.

The first stage of the project was re-merchandising the Mars Impulse confectionery range within Premier’s cash and carry. Morris says: “This was all about maximising sales from a limited space. The aim was to rationalise the range and make sure the layout was right so the top sellers were most prominent.”

The layout was developed using Mars Impulse planograms adapted to the local requirements of Premier. Masterfood’s trade relations manager Andrea Taylor explains: “We work jointly. Mars Impulse has the confectionery expertise, but the wholesaler has the local knowledge and knows what is selling in their customers’ stores, so we are flexible when suggesting new layouts. For instance, Mars is the biggest seller in the UK, but Snickers is bigger than Mars in London, so we placed Snickers where it is the first product retailers see on the shelf.”

Morris, who spent a day personally relaying Premier’s confectionery fixture with Jamil, says: “The layout follows the suggested layout in stores, because that is the way the retailer will draw up his order. He will look along his shelves to see what he has got, and this way makes it easier for them to find what they are looking for.”

Premier also shares sales data with Mars and Morris adds: “We continually monitor sales so if there is a slow seller it can be dropped and we can slot in new products such as Mars Planets.”

Jamil says: “Mars is one of the friendliest suppliers and very straight forward to work with. If they say they will do something, they do it. If they can’t they say so and they explain why. They provide a lot of support and deal with issues. It makes it easier to deal with them and you want to work with them. It’s not the same with some other suppliers who you have to push all the time.”

Mars has helped to streamline ordering for Jamil by operating a stock-based ordering system. Jamil says: “Our system tells us exactly what we have in stock so when Mars’ telesales call every two weeks I can tell them. From that they can generate an order and fax it back in about 10 to 15 minutes. I then check that and once I am happy with it the order goes in. The telesales team are helpful because they will flag up promotions and see whether we want extra quantities.”

With big planned promotions Morris will have flagged them up to Jamil a couple of months in advance to discuss the potential sales uplift and then left a note on the file for telesales so they raise it at the appropriate time. Jamil says: “It makes ordering very simple. Mars is also very reliable. I don’t have to worry whether supplies are going to come in.”

The second part of Mars’ initiative involves providing support for retailers who are members of the am2pm symbol group. The Mars sales team works closely with Premier calling on am2pm members and providing mechandising advice. Raj Samani says: “They have put people on the road, helping our retailers with their merchandising and relaying the stores to their planogram. It is good from our point of view because the retailers receive their support through am2pm. For instance, when there is a new am2pm member Premier can alert Mars and they can provide additional support, and the retailers sees that it is coming through Premier.”

Rishi Patel of Sky Food and Wine in Northwood, who was Confectionery Retailer of the Year at the am2pm annual awards in December, gets regular visits from Mars. He says: “We discussed changing the merchandising. They drew up a planogram and then we discussed it and worked on it together.

“I don’t have EPOS but I can tell I am selling more since the change because I am buying more to restock. It’s probably up 15% to 20%. On some lines, such as Mars and Snickers, I’m now buying three cases a week when I would only have been using about one and a half before, but all the products are moving much faster.”

Aroon Samani, managing director of Premier, says: “It’s important to have a category approach. Some suppliers always push their own products. For instance, each soft drink manufacturer provides branded chillers with doors that act as a barrier to the customer. It would be much better if they all took a category approach with a layout for a dairy deck, which would enable them all to sell more. Mars has taken a category approach and has been very innovative in their work with us.”

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