XMAS IS COMMUNITY – A NATURAL FOR MSYS

When Sylvia Winter, an outstanding independent retailer with more community focus than most, presented Gladys Gillett with a Christmas hamper in the shop at Creaton, Northampton, it was more than a nice gesture to a customer who Sylvia described as a “pleasure to serve”.

It was not rocket science, it was not mind-boggling, it was not exactly Booker Prize winning creativity… but it was a heart-warming gesture to the locals who visit Sylvia’s Post Office store many times a week that the owner of the business recognised her inter-dependence with the neighbourhood.

Christmas is the natural community festival, and is ingrained as such. If Christmas is community, then it is legitimate MSYS potential. A hamper can be a modest investment for any Features > Business, but its impact as a gift for the customer who the retailer and his or her staff elect as the one which they most welcome to their store every day can impress the locals.

Or a hamper might go to the local family which is down on its luck or a hospital patient or an old folks’ home – it need not be a highly publicised event which may embarrass people – just a low key gesture of goodwill from the community organised through its local focal store. In Scotland there will be more focus on the New Year but the same principles apply.

The link between local retailers and schools is full of potential at this time of the year. Schools will be mounting nativity plays or traditional theatre and the local shop might sponsor the programmes or supply props.

Carol singing and the performance of traditional music can be a platform for the local store on which it can demonstrate its community credentials.

Why not invite the local school choir to show its carol expertise at the shop in the run up to Christmas – promote the event with posters in the shop window and organise a collection for the most relevant local charity.

== SCHOOLS CARD COMPETITION ==

A ‘Design A Community Christmas Card’ competition for local schools could be a popular activity – it ticks the right local boxes and there is still time for the retailer to get the card printed this year for their own use or for sale to the local community generally.

The traditional response from the industry when asked to consider Christmas promotional activity has been “independent retailers are too busy at Christmas to be bothered with promotional activity”.

But this year the giant superstores will be mounting genuinely competitive promotional activity – the price war will be notched up and the impact on the independent sector could be dramatic.

As this issue of ProWholesaler goes to press the Big Four supermarkets are demonstrating their power both in brands and in the increasing space that they are giving to own label. Price is their big message.

Can the independent retailer ignore the credit crunch plus the failure of the convenience lobby to persuade the Competition Commission that small shops are discriminated against?

MSYS is not the complete answer -but it helps.

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=== IDEAS FOR SEASONAL COMMUNITY BASED ACTIVITY ===

l COMMUNITY ENERGY WATCH – in the news – soaring energy costs – old folk at risk – look out for the vulnerable.

l Sponsor a community Christmas tree.

l For schools – link up with schools for carol singing at the shop.

l For schools – design a Christmas card with a ‘local community’ message.

l School holidays – activities for youngsters such as five-a-side soccer, errands for the elderly/infirm/housebound, tidy up/litter sweeps or community centre interior decoration.

l Collections for local charities/old folks homes.

l Funding toy gifts for local hospital children’s wards.

l Donating products for hampers for charity.

l ‘Looking out’ for people who are alone at Christmas.

l Sponsorship of Christmas/nativity/traditional plays at local schools.

l Offering a glass of wine/sherry/chocolates to locals.

l Send Christmas cards to your customers.

l Invite local MP to visit the store to show support for your community involvement at Christmas.

l Invite local Mayor/councillors to participate in goodwill activities

l Invite local radio station to use store for live festive spot

l Invite local TV as above.

l Inform local newspaper of activities.

l Construct special Christmas notice board to inform community of all local Christmas/New Year activities.

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=== MSYS is now a fascia symbol ===

The FWD My Shop Is Your Shop concept impressed independent c-store owner Mr Singh so much that he has incorporated the campaign logo into his new shop fascia.

Co-ordinated by his local National Federation of Retail Newsagents business advisor Julie-Ann Smith, he smartened up the front of his store in Coalville, Leicestershire, by adopting the MSYS colours and designs.

Mr Singh then hosted a very successful re-launch day and party for his customers which was supported by gifts and promotional items from key suppliers with the help of the MSYS campaign.

Chairman Alan Toft said: “This is a great example of two trade associations working together in the sole interests of the independent retailer.

“FWD provides the consumer concept on which the NFRN business advisors in the sector work hands-on to genuinely help the retailer.

“Key supportive suppliers also helped generously with gifts for the re-launch.”

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