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!

The Living Wage Standards – How will this affect the Wholesale market?

The big four supermarkets have all announced varying responses to the Living Wage Standards which will come into affect next year, but have been trumped by the discounters Aldi and Lidl (again!).

Aldi said that it would pay its employees £8.40 an hour or £9.45 in London and Lidl has said that it will be paying at least £8.20 in England, Wales and Scotland and £9.35 for those in London.

Both Aldi and Lidl have been able to offer this as they already pay their employees a higher hourly rate than the supermarkets, and so it’s not so much of a big jump for them. Its also great publicity and advertising for them too, showing that they are the best paying retailers in the market today and looking after their staff. But essentially it’s also a business decision, as paying higher wages for staff reduced staff turnover and the costs that come with it.

So far, the supermarkets haven’t had much of a response with Sainsbury’s saying its employee wages are £7.20 for the workers over the age of 25 from April 2016. Tesco’s are at £8.80 and Morrison’s at £8.20 and so still behind the discounters but this could change.

With the wholesalers employing vast numbers of staff then what is their position? Well, Charles Wilson, CEO of Booker plc mentioned at the last AGM that they constantly monitor pay against retail sector standards and although they are keeping an eye on the situation they feel that they offer a fair wage.

So far, no other wholesalers have come out to comment on their current wage structure and the new Living Wage Standard and whether they will be increasing employees’ hourly pay to reflect this.

However, there is another big factor to consider here. With the rise of the Living Wage Standard then a large number of cafes, restaurants, bars etc. will be affected and the increased employee cost will hit the bottom line. Many of these bars, cafes etc will not survive and go bust, which in turn mean that wholesalers who supply them will be affected too.

So it would be interesting to see the affect on the wholesaler market next year, once the Living Wage Standard is live!

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.