Store owners on MTJ PR’s Retail Excellence Panel are facing tough trading conditions due to stock shortages and rising costs. During this difficult time, retailers across the country need more support from suppliers with launches, stock availability, and promotional materials. Here, we reveal three lessons from our panellists, which suppliers should consider when running trade activity in the coming months.

  1. Don’t launch in supermarkets first

Independent convenience retailers are much more likely to back your launches and support your brands if they are given a fair shot at stocking them ahead of, or at the same time as, the multiples.

Natalie Lightfoot Londis Solo Convenience“Launches that go into any supermarket first tend to be the ones that fail in our store,” said Natalie Lightfoot, owner of Londis Solo Convenience in Glasgow. “If that happens, then it’s saturated by the time it gets to us. I’ll really get behind any launch we get ahead of the supermarkets.”

Natalie went on to reveal how she has supported launches she’s been first with in the past. “We’ve installed branded vinyl on our store entrance, and we’ve had competitions on Facebook.

“Unfortunately, my store is too small for someone to be present there all day giving out tasters. But I can certainly back free stock going out to my customers.

“We’ve previously given out vouchers so customers can get new products at a reduced price.”

Of course, suppliers need to weigh up priorities across different retailers to keep all their customers happy, but they should certainly build convenience-first products into their launch plan to support the independent trade.

  1. Make sure there are outcomes

The nature of field sales reps is that they can move on from their roles without warning. Retailers on the call spoke of their frustration at trying to call a rep they’ve spent time building a relationship with, only to find out that they’ve left the business or moved to a different role.

All of them shared experiences where suppliers have promised some form of engagement and not delivered, which has caused them to become more wary of giving time to suppliers.

As Imtiyaz Mamode of Wych Lane Premier in Gosport, Hampshire explained: “I’m in a lot of retailer WhatsApp groups and I often see retailers getting different brands in store, but for some reason I struggle to get the same engagement. I never seem to get a follow up on what suppliers promise me at the events that I attend.”

Sophie Towers Kibble Bank One StopSophie Towers of Kibble Bank One Stop in Burnley, Lancashire agreed. “I’ll often reach out to suppliers, and they’ll tell me they’ve spent all the budget. Then you see their activity a month or so later in another retailer’s store,” she said.

  1. Be active across all channels

The best independent retailers in the country are active across all social channels. Take Imtiyaz for example; as well as running his store, he also nurtures significant followings across YouTube, TikTok and other social media sites. For him, the best launches now are the ones where he can back with them across all the touchpoints he has with his customers.

Imtiyaz Mamode Wych Lane Premier“A few months back there was the launch of Rubicon RAW,” he recalled. “When it launched, they started doing plenty of promotion on social media. I started engaging with it and so my customers started asking me about it because they wanted to try it.”

Suppliers should ensure social media materials are available for retailers to download. They should also consider sending free stock to stores with significant local followings to see if they can appear on their channels.

Retail Excellence PanelMore insight from The Retail Excellence Panel: