Cash and carry and delivered wholesalers and their independent retail customers can build on the impact of the My Shop Is Your Shop campaign and increase sales by creative promotional activity which focuses on community, community, community…says Alan Toft, MSYS campaign chairman, in this review. MSYS is PR but it’s positively commercial. Imagine the war room at any multiple superstore headquarters and the instructions which go out from it to the people responsible for the small c-stores which the group operates.
They will sound something like this: “Hello shop reference number 757/2ES. This week you will promote XYZ and put more ABC on display. The manager’s bonus will be based on sales of etc etc…”
Nothing wrong with this discipline – except that it will not exactly reflect the changing needs of the community surrounding that multiple c-store
And any community-based interface with local shoppers will be fitted in around the marketing fundamentals agreed at the giant and distant head office.
Hello, this looks like a gap in the market for community trading based on real local communities and the multi-faceted needs, moods, happenings, experiences and life-styles of the folk who make up that community. Every one is different.
And that gap in the market can be filled by the independent retailer who is a sole trader or family Features > Business, not responsible financially to anyone except his local bank manager.
But he is responsible to the local community to provide them with the goods and services that they require and which cannot be identified, evaluated or provided exactly by any distant multiple c–store HQ.
For the independent retailer, he can say to his locals: “It’s you and me, together…” We call it My Shop Is Your Shop.
When the MSYS marketing campaign was in the course of construction, some wanted to convert it into a political activity to add weight to the lobbies already in place.
These are run by Friends of the Earth, the Women’s Institute, and some Members of Parliament; trade protests are driven by the Federation of Wholesale Distributors and other trade bodies.
But why duplicate this activity which is based, frankly, on complaining and using negatives to call attention to the imbalance and flaws in the market structure?
Shoppers want low prices, the lower the better. The big three and a half give them low prices and base their fundamental positive consumer offering on low prices.
Why not fill the enormous gap left by the absence of any form of positive and constructive independent retail generic marketing campaign targeting that shopper, the consumer living near to and using local shops?
Why not attempt to reach that shopper with positive messages about the community value of the local genuine non-multiple independent retailers who form the core customer base of every wholesaler?
The latter policy prevails – and it is winning, with media exposure of the National Independents’ Day message on June l being costed at £1.5m in equivalent advertising cost terms.
Not everyone in the UK, and not every retailer in the UK, is aware of MSYS and NID – yet. We are only in year two. But anecdotal evidence reveals that even men have noticed the activity – they have mentioned it in pubs!
So what are the next steps? The campaign is operated by the FWD PR Action Group (PRAG) consisting of wholesaler representatives covering the whole of the UK and supportive suppliers, NFRN and RSA.
PRAG was told at a recent meeting that a substantial number of rural shopkeepers were not aware of MSYS or NID and had received little help from their wholesalers. I am told that some wholesalers, operating in a hostile marketplace, have little time to devote to non-commercial activities or non-trading activities.
But MSYS is the most commercial activity in which any wholesaler could become involved. The simple concept of MSYS is to brutally exploit the interface between the local independent serving the community in his own individual warm human way and the local people.
Ideas on how this can be done have been publicised widely – it’s the “how did Mrs Smith get on at the hospital?” syndrome or promoting local soccer teams in addition to stocking products local people particularly need. It’s about helping local independents to understand how the local media works and how to use it.
A new strand of thought arises in wholesaler strategies. There is now such a thing as a community wholesaler, emphasising and including community promotional activity in addition to the usual range of goods and services which his customers need.
Philip Jenkins, managing director of Sugro, and Athif Sawar, managing director of United Wholesale Scotland, appeared on national television on the NID media exposure bonanza.
This writer was buried in a BBC Radio basement in Brighton promoting the NID message on various national and regional link programmes.
MSYS starts with the wholesaler, supported by suppliers who recognise the positives of the campaign, and ends with the shopper via the retailer and the media.
Wholesalers now have a tangible platform to plan on-going MSYS activity. It’s not just about June l – shoppers are using local stores day in day out.
In essence, every day is National Independents’ Day. It’s just that on one day of the year we can focus on it to the exclusion of everything else. MSYS will bring trading dividends to wholesalers and suppliers through the independent retailer.
The money-off coupon promotion in the Daily Mirror and Daily Record (Scotland) brought one major supplier new listings, and another very satisfactory increased sales.
But the noise the promotion created in addition to the media exposure and the great support given by the trade press was what actually worked in our sector’s favour. Positive noise and community focus will bring more sales to the independent sector and contribute to the halting of its erosion by the giants.