The first ever formal link between independent retailers and their local professional league club was launched at a meeting at the Walkers Stadium, home of Leicester City FC on Wednesday, February 13.
Initiated by the FWD My Shop Is Your Shop campaign, and sponsored by Walkers, the scheme is a community marketing programme designed to drive independent retailer footfall through football.
The scheme will provide free tickets for retailer-organised groups of parents and youngsters for selected home matches, help retailers to organise parties of youngsters to watch the professionals train, and provide coaching help for children’s five-a-side teams set up by local shops.
These five-a-sides will compete in a planned city-wide tournament in the summer holidays assisted by help from Leicester City coaching staff.
Window bills and POS will be provided to alert local shop customers to the activity, which will also include special tours of the imposing Walkers Stadium.
At the meeting attended by club officials and Alison Ison of Walkers, 14 retailers elected Londis flagship-store owner Raj Aggarwal as chairman of the group.
His first act was to give the group a name – the Foxes Retailer Forum (FRF).
In the autumn this pilot activity will be evaluated prior to further implementation.
Alan Toft, MSYS chairman, told the meeting: “You are making history in the independent sector as the front-runners in linking your shop and your community with the local league club.
“MSYS and Leicester City will help you to become the local soccer-based shop. This will impress parents who will see the benefits of among other things, encouraging youngsters to become interested in sport rather than anti-social behaviour.
“For parents and children already into soccer it’s a bonus based on the local shop.”
Leicester City community officer Craig White told the retailers: “This football club has a tradition of being part of the community and we will work with you to enhance this tradition.”
FRF will meet as a group to progress the programme, which will be co-ordinated by the MSYS campaign as an immediate on-going intiative. The allocation of free tickets and related activities will be scheduled by agreement with the club over the next weeks.
Raj Aggarwal commented: “This is a wonderful scheme for independents, for the club and for the community. This is exactly the kind of positive marketing our sector needs at a time of increasing competitive pressure.”
Newsagent Bill Dayman said: “The local shop can for the first time benefit from the power of football and some positive marketing link with parents and children.”
Retailer Steve Collins said the group would provide a platform for independents to exchange ideas on community retailing in general and not just on soccer.
C-store owner Santokh Bath said: “At our store we are already helping youngsters with soccer training. The parents get involved and the kids love it. But the formation of this group has now given us a bigger platform.”
The first visit by a retailer-organised group of youngsters to watch the professionals train will take place this month.
Following the meeting, chairman Raj Aggarwal, attended the February meeting of the FWD PR Action Group (PRAG), which drives the MSYS campaign, to make an enthusiastic report on the initiative.
Alan Toft told ProWholesaler: “The next club to be involved in this MSYS soccer partners programme will be Stockport County and we hope to announce their plans soon.”