Small Mercies

Wholesalers are taking strides to help CTNs survive challenging times. TAN PARSONS reports

In this recession, the consumer has become shrewder and thriftier than ever – creating perfect conditions for discounters. The likes of Aldi, Lidl and Poundstretcher have thrived, putting the squeeze on traditional independent stores, particularly confectioners, tobacconists and newsagents (CTNs).

According to some figures, leading discounters’ sales are growing at four times those of CTNs. But despite this, leading wholesalers are investing significantly in supporting CTNs.

Palmer and Harvey last year launched its analysis of the CTN sector, Shop Health, a guide that contained hints and tips to help CTNs grow their businesses. Martyn Ward, MD for commercial and sales, says: “There are between 4,000 and 6,000 hard-core CTNs in the UK, and they have survived without a great deal of support from either manufacturers or wholesalers. That’s because they are offering something the customer still wants.” This includes friendly service, knowledge of their customers, and a great range of products.

To tap into this, wholesalers need to give the right promotions and advice, he says. “We can make it a very vibrant sector that can live alongside the discounters, the supermarkets and c-stores.”

Today’s Group also supported its smaller stores with the launch of a magazine at the end of last year. Today’s Retailer is filled with tips and advice to help smaller shops to be successful.

Brand marketing manager Anita Oakhill says: “We also provide our symbol group and retail club stores with helpful advice on store layout and merchandising plans to maximise profit.”

She adds that the group uses its buying power to negotiate strong promotions for its members, who get in-store point-of-sale (PoS) material and a consumer leaflet that goes out 17 times a year to coincide with Today’s promotional calendar.

The burgeoning discount sector has led some newsagent chains to bolster their offerings. Martin McColl has been rapidly converting many of its CTNs into full c-stores, which now account for more than 60% of its 1,260-strong estate.

Buying group Sugro is offering CTNs a fascia ‘badge’ called S Stores, chilled and frozen produce, and promotional terms for credit-card transactions, PayPoint and lottery, and impulse and grocery products.
MD Philip Jenkins says a fascia badge gives CTNs an identity that consumers will see and recognise.
“We are investing in S Stores because without independent retailers, we don’t have a business.”

He adds that the most important way in which wholesalers can support CTNs is to provide unbiased information about what ranges to stock. “Compliance is very important – passing promotional structures on to the consumer. It’s crucial we reinforce that message to retailers.


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