If you’re motivated to drive real, tangible results from your communications strategy then there is no better place to see these than in the convenience and wholesale trade press. A world away from the raucous, rambunctious and, at times, ruthless world of consumer PR, success in trade press is more subtle. It’s a slow burn – and it’s measured in small changes. Its power is in the ability to convince a retailer to put your brand on their shelves, to bring your PoS to the front of their store or to create a TikTok video for their local community about your products. Over time, by hitting your message home week after week, trade press can help ensure your reps are the ones retailers call when they need advice.

It’s not about big numbers. Indeed, your reach in convenience is capped somewhere below 34,5001 – the number of independent convenience stores in the UK. If you’re going viral in trade communications, then you’re likely doing it wrong. In trade, you win with the specific and the specialist.

Crucially, trade PR ensures your consumer PR is not a waste of time. There is no point in getting influencers to post about your products or dazzling consumers with experiential campaigns if they can’t find your brands in their local shops. Here, we explore five reasons why you should work with the trade press.

1. You can drive actual sales for your brand and prove ROI

Clicks, OTS, dwell time – all important metrics to measure engagement. You know what’s slightly better? Real sales coming directly off the back of your trade PR initiatives.

Most convenience and wholesale titles offer some variation of ‘in-store projects’. The best ones work like this: the title will find a retailer who is struggling in the category or categories that you operate in and set up a time for you to visit. The retailer agrees to remerchandise or introduce your products and trial them for a set period, usually six weeks to three months. After providing some initial free stock, the store owner then stocks up on your products as they see your principles driving their sales. At the end of the period, the title covers the story, usually under a headline that shouts about how much of a sales uplift the retailer saw within that category.

The result is that you win a new retail customer for life and receive a great case study to show other stores. The savviest suppliers run store trials with symbol group retailers under wholesalers where they are struggling to get listings and then use them in head office pitches.

2. You can use trade press as a route to market

Most trade press titles offer competitions and while these are usually paid-for or reserved for current customers, a relatively small investment can land you a spot. Somewhere along the way, ‘five winners receiving £50 of stock each’ became the standard, and while the title usually selects the winners, they will often provide you with their contact details to send them the stock. That’s five retailers who you can start to build a relationship with.

Alternatively, why not team up with a title for an exclusive offer? Titles have an incentive to offer their retailers something more. Why not partner with these titles that truly care about reader engagement to see if you can offer their readers exclusive deals? Trade press is more than just coverage and content – it can be an effective route to market for brands that inspire store owners.

3. You can make your money go further in trade press

You don’t need a massive budget to create impactful content in trade press. While influencers commonly charge £5k or more for one social post, trade press adverts can be bought for less than a third of that. But even more creative, bespoke projects are tremendously good value. Trade press offer video projects that take place in stores and depots where you can demonstrate your credibility. If you combine these advertorial projects with a free offer and your phone number, such as ‘Call us for a free case of stock and a free-standing display unit’, you will begin to see retailers coming to you to find out more.

4. You can receive honest feedback

A few years ago, a popular treat brand (which shall remain unnamed) launched an offer where it increased the size of its packs by 50% for a limited time only while maintaining margin for the retailer and the price for the consumer. What could possibly be the downside?

I remember visiting a retailer when that offer arrived in his store and he marched me over to his display, pointed at the shelf and proclaimed: “There’s just no way they spoke to a single retailer before launching this.” Looking at the shelf, it was clear why. While 50% bigger packs were great in theory, they were now an irregular pack size for his display, pushing products together unattractively and resulting in him either having the shelf so crammed it was unshoppable or leaving an ugly gap at the end.

Had the supplier floated the idea past retailers beforehand, they would have saved a lot of time and frustration. Most trade titles are well-versed in creating roundtables for brands where they will get half a dozen retailers in a room to discuss your category and your upcoming initiatives. Some of that content can then be promoted publicly in articles, but crucially some insight can be kept quiet to give your business the inside edge.

Retailers are well-known for their bullish and challenging approach to dealing with suppliers but by rising to this rather than shying away, you can win loyal customers. I remember sitting in a roundtable before the pandemic and witnessing a heated argument between a supplier and one refractory retailer. After 15-minutes of vitriol, the retailer agreed to trial their solution in their store. To my knowledge, he still works with that supplier to this day. Trade press can be a medium for honest feedback and insight.

5. You can create advocates for your brands

We’ve covered consumer influencers already, but did you know retailers are increasingly becoming local personalities on social media themselves? “I know many of my friends who own stores are struggling, but I’m not because I’ve invested so much time in my social presence,” one retailer recently said to me.

Wych Lane Premier is just one example of a store that is doing this well. The store’s TikTok account has grown since their first video in March, with a mixture of product reviews and customer announcements creating buzz in the local community. Trade PR can help you build relationships with these influential community figures and, by supporting their business with your latest launches and impactful store theatre, you might end up on their social feeds too. One strong relationship can result in an entire community seeing your brands in an engaging way that is relevant to them. That’s a great reward.

Conclusion

Print-focused and highly technical – trade press is an often-overlooked area of comms, regularly only receiving crumbs when it really does deserve the whole loaf. But, by engaging with quality titles in the right way and deploying some or all the tactics outlined above, you can create a real difference with your brands and earn trust from a highly engaged and passionate readership, who are some of the country’s most innovative entrepreneurs. The power of trade press lies in the relationships their editorial and sales teams hold. By working with them in the right way, you can tap into these links and win loyal retail customers for years to come.

1 ACS Local Shop Report 2022