Government Plans to Soften Sunday Trading Laws Facing Defeat

This week, the government plans to soften the Sunday trading laws for the large retailers is facing defeat, with the SNP fearing it could drive down Scottish workers wages. That combined with the fact that other MPs and some Tory rebels are voting against the motion means that it is most likely that the law will be defeated.

With the current law set at a maximum of 6 hours trading on a Sunday for the large retailers, this can have a big affect on current and future business in both the grocery and wholesale markets.

They competition is from online ordering – whereby orders can be made any time, any day and so with the shorter trading laws on a Sunday the online presence is looking even stronger.

The wholesalers with a strong online presence, like JJ Food Service, Booker and Bestway will continue to grow their business away from the retail side. However, other smaller wholesalers who do not have an online presence yet may see their share of the market slip as those looking to order online can only do so with the larger established wholesalers.

This is even more important in the wholesale sector with the convenience store owners typically do their stock takes and replenishments over the weekend when they have a break from running their business, or another family member can fill in for them.

Thus, the impact of the vote on the local wholesalers and retailers will be very interesting to see over the next couple of months.

54% of Supermarket Products are on Promotion

This week, market research firm IRI Group has announced the results of their research shows that 54% of products sold by the supermarkets and major retailers were on promotions such as ‘multi-buys’ and Special Offer promotions.

This compares with 28% in Europe overall, making the UK the country with the highest number of promotions in Europe. The impact for manufacturers is immense, as the promotions are no longer having the big impact on sales they once had, and the manufacturer is no longer seeing the uplift on promotions that are subsidised at the retailers. That combined with the misleading promotions means that something has to be done to tackle this problem, perhaps by introducing a cap or percentage of products that can be promoted by a retailer or supermarket on promotion.

So how does this fair in the wholesale sector?

The wholesalers all have their own ‘Special Offers’ for the week and also for the month and these are usually the most popular products to help bring the customers in through the door with seasonal variations. So soft drinks may be on ‘Special Offer’ in the summer, and alcoholic drinks in the winter close to the Christmas period. This product range is usually limited and no more than 10% of the range of products the wholesaler will sell.

Most wholesalers also feature a ‘multi-buy’ offer where if you’re buying 2, 3 or 4 products then you will receive a discounted price. This is prevalent and a ‘multi-buy’ is available on almost all products. Indeed, Start Catering and JJs Food Service offer a ‘multi-buy’ on more than 80% of their product range.

With our analytics software, a wholesaler can keep track of the ‘Special Offers’ and ‘multi-buy’ prices charged by competitors and so that they can time their own ‘Special Offers’ accordingly.

We will be looking in more detail at the ‘Special Offers’ and ‘multi-buys’ offered to customers to see if these really work and will report back with our findings!

Wholesalers – How to Get the Price of your Products Right

Over the last month, we’ve been having a look at how to help wholesalers to get the selling price of their products right. Typically the selling price has always been a fixed mark-up on the price of a product.

So if a wholesaler bought a product for 80p, then he would be adding a 25% mark-up and selling the product for £1 which should have enough margin to cover the overheads of storing the product, handling and delivery etc.

However, today using this pricing strategy has its limitations, and why is that? Firstly, there are competitors in the marketplace and each competitor is setting their own price of the product based on their own specific cost structures e.g. storage, distribution and how much they bought the product for in the first place. The larger the purchasing power of the wholesaler the better discounts the wholesaler can get from the manufacturer.

Hence, to be able to set your own price, you’ll need to see how much the competition is selling in the marketplace for. If you’re price is too high, then the customers will go to the competition. If you’re too low then you’re throwing away good margin. Hence, getting the price right is essential and the first step to doing this is to know what your competitors sell at.

Secondly, there will be products which are bring customers in e.g. Coca Cola cans, Red Bull etc. which are very popular products and can be promoted at a special price to lure customers into buying. These products will be on promotion and typically loss leaders.

However, you will also want to see what the competitors have on promotion and whether you can beat or compete with that price. It may be the case that a competitor has such a low price on a promotional product, that you cannot compete with the price and so best to promote a different product or wait until the competitors promotional period is over.

This is what our ‘Improve That Price’ analytic’s product does.

A wholesaler can see the competitor pricing for all products, and then decide how to price their own products. They can also download variance reports which will show which products are 5%, 10%, 20% etc higher priced than a competitor and make changes accordingly. The can do this instantly for all of their product range, and even against the closest match of a competitor.

This is a great piece of software and now used by some of the largest wholesalers in the UK. So if you want to see how this works, then email faisal@improvethatprice.com and he would be very happy to give you a demo!

Our Forecast for 2015

It’s been an interesting year for wholesale and foodservice sector in 2014 with a strong performance and little of the drama that has forsaken the supermarket industry this year.

The year has been one of transition from the traditional cash and carry model to one being dominated by internet and click and collect sales. We see this trend continuing into the next 5 years with steady growth year-on-year.

With internet sales having reached over £1bn this year with big contributions from both Booker and Bestway, the convenience of ordering online is becoming a stable feature for customers. This still only represents 4% of the overall market, and so there is still room for much further growth to be seen in internet sales sector. We forecast the market grow to 10% within the next 10 years.

Mobile apps have also started to emerge with a new app created by Bestway as one of the first apps in this sector. Time will tell as to how popular mobile ordering will become, but we forecast that it will continue to grow as smart phones become a mainstay of the ordering market.

With all this online presence continuing to grow, data will become increasing more important with savvy wholesalers making decisions based on the data that they have in real-time to target new and existing customers with special offers etc. We see the emergence of data as the next big change in wholesale and the wholesalers who can adapt the quickest in the next 5 years, will enjoy the biggest growth.

We also see the market becoming more and more competitive as the discounters enter the convenience store market. With lower prices and a different range of brands, market share will be lost to the discounters which will have an added affect on wholesalers too.

Overall, we see opportunity in 2015 for wholesalers to adapt further to technology through online websites, mobile ordering and employing big data techniques to engage customers and refine their price strategies going forward. Those that can adapt the quickest to changes in the market will have a competitive advantage in the coming years.

We wish you all a Happy New Year and prosperous 2015!

Supermarket Price Wars Affect on Food Producers and Wholesalers

It’s been no secret that there’s a price war going on at the moment between the major supermarkets due to the attack from the discounters. This may be good news for consumers, with lower prices in store and deflation of food and drink prices, but not so good news for the food producers.

Research from Moore Stephens has shown that 146 food producers went into administration this year, compared to 114 last year, which is a worrying sign.

With the supermarkets putting added pressure on supplier costs, this has meant that the margins made by the supplies are far less than before, and can tip the supplier into administration. This coupled with the long payment terms of the supermarkets means that the suppliers have a cashflow problem, and end up running out of cash.

Are we due to see the effects of this in the wholesale market? At the moment, there may not be a price war waging between the wholesalers, but the food suppliers also supply to wholesalers and food service companies too. Thus, with fewer suppliers in the market and less competition, this may lead to higher prices in the future too.

It will be interesting to see how prices will be affected in 2015 with fewer food suppliers, and the impact of the discounters moving into the convenience store sector too. 2015 will certainly be an interesting year in the wholesale market!

Poundland Sees 12% Rise in Profits – Should you be stocking Value Brands?

Poundland this week reported a 12% rise in profits for the half year to £9.3m, and like-for-like sales were also up 4.7%.  This clearly suggests that shoppers are going for the discount brands, and looking to get their shop as cheap as possible. What impact does this have on the convenience stores in local areas?

Well, for a start, consumers are becoming more price sensitive and so are trying to save money at any suitable opportunity. This puts pressures on the price competition between convenience stores, Sainsbury Local, Tesco Metro etc.  and the discount stores too.

So should the local convenience store be selling more of the low value branded goods, then the branded goods themselves E.g. should a local convenience store sell own label tomato ketchup rather than Heinz ketchup? Or are these customers still going for the branded goods, and are only after the convenience? And with limited shelf space, then the shop owner has to be very picky about the products that they sell too, so the choice is even more important.

It’s very difficult for the local convenience store to compete just on price – any Sainsbury’s Local or Tesco Metro can blow them away on the price, with their enhanced buying power. The main reason why a customer is coming into the convenience store is literally for convenience – if they went to a Tesco Metro then they would have to walk there, try and find the product, walk around the large store, queue up to pay etc, which takes time. To buy something simple like a bottle of tomato ketchup, then it is easier to go to the local convenience store and be in and out in a few minutes.

Hence, as speed is the key, seeing the product the customer wants to buy very quickly is important. Hence, the brand is very important in this regard as the customer can identify with the brand quickly and easily, and make a choice easily.

Thus, for this reason we recommend that the convenience stores continue to stock the popular brands and stock own label products for non-key items e.g. custard cream biscuits.  A focus on the gross margins of the products and the convenience aspect will ensure that convenience stores will continue to flourish and be a central point for the local community for the foreseeable future.

Scotland Voted ‘No’ to Independence, what is the Impact on Wholesale Prices?

It was a big day for the UK on Friday morning, with the results of the Scottish Referendum. With Scotland voting ‘No’ on leaving the UK, it was one of the biggest days in the last 300 years in the history of the United Kingdom, and not to be repeated for a long time too!

So how does this affect wholesales prices of your food and drink items, I hear you ask? Well, we can look at it both in terms of a ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ to Scottish Independence and see what the affect’s on the wholesale prices would have been.

Today, all trade freely moves between England and Scotland in the UK. The big wholesalers have their headquarters in England, and run their Scottish stores usually as a subsidiary of their UK branch and so the stores are just treated exactly the same as the English stores with the same products, similar prices and the same distribution network.

However, if Scotland had decided to go independent, there would be a new border created between England and Scotland, with a new currency too, as the pound most likely would not have been allowed to continue as a currency in Scotland. This would have had a large implication on the prices charged to customers and the transfer of goods between the two countries.

Prices would be open to a foreign exchange rate, and we forecast that prices would have increased in relation to those in the UK, with the exchange rate fluctuating with the new independent status of the country. Additionally, transferring stocks to the ‘new Scotland’ would have incurred further charges with import duties going up, especially for Tobacco and Alcohol as the ‘new Scotland’ tries to raise funds to support their new independent country.

Additionally, the cost of distribution may be affected too. As Scotland is a separate country, they would be able to choose which taxes to apply to petrol prices in the country, making distribution to stores more expensive if petrol prices were to rise with the higher taxes.

All in all, it was a beneficial result for all wholesale businesses up and down the country that Scotland did not vote ‘Yes’ to independence and with this uncertainty removed, small businesses can now get back to working on improving their own sales, profitability and growth – the real issues that they face today, rather an issues brought about through decisions outside of their control.