Retailers who are members of the Batleys depot at Birtley, Chester-le-Street in County Durham, can now benefit from a texting system which alerts them to when Mars representatives will be in the depot, dishing out a special deal.

The idea was the brainchild of Julie Oswald, a retail development executive at CPM, who acts as a field marketing agent for Mars. She developed the initiative following her own experience of receiving texts from companies telling her about sales or products.

retailers’ views
Neil Johnston 
Johnstons Newagents, Durham 
"I'm on the road a lot and post and emails are at home. With a text I get the information instantly. I visit the depot at least four times a week. I was here yesterday, but I got the text so I'm here again today. The text helps to jog my memory and you know that there will be a special deal on. It's very convenient I really like it. It's so simple and helps me with a top-up shop. When I come into depot I tend to pick up extra stock on impulse just through being in the depot." 

Helen Bell 
Helen's Topshop, Burnhope, Durham 
"I visit the depot every day, but I like to receive the text as it reminds me to wait until that day to pick up Mars products and see what the offer is. I always have my phone in my pocket, so I get the text instantly. Once I'm in the depot I pick up extra stock. My customers are complaining slightly about prices, but they're still buying confectionery and they want bigger pack sizes!" 

Taj Singh 
Lifestyle Express, Hebburn, Tyne & Wear
 "The text scheme is a brilliant idea. It is quicker and better than mailouts. It's very cost efficient. If you know the product is there, then you look for it. I'm here every day and confectionery flies out the door. Coming into the depot means you pick up extra products as you remember things you'd forgotten. I signed up to the text alerts right away and had no problem giving Julie my mobile number."
The text is sent directly from Oswald, whom the retailers are already familiar with, adding a personal touch. It doesn't detail the specific offer, but it tells retailers the date that she and fellow Mars representative Anne Dardouri will be at the depot.

Depot general manager Dave Bolam says: "The feedback we've been getting is fantastic retailers are responding very positively. The good thing for us is the amount of footfall it fetches on top of our existing mailouts. With the mailouts, by the time people look at them it can be too late, whereas with the texting they see the deal instantly. The customers love the personal touch, and they know Julie and Anne so they come to see them."

He states that all retailers who originally signed up to the messaging system back in June 2010 are still on board. "As far as I know no one has said they no longer want the texts. I'm actually being asked when they will get the next one."

Mars Chocolate regional account manager Dave Ridley says: "If we were simply to stand in depot and sell Snickers or Mars bars then all that would happen is that retailers would store loads of bars in their shop. You're just moving one pile of bars to another place and the retailer might not come back for two weeks to buy Mars bars. So we focus on lines we want to generate extra turnover on and get long-term benefits, trial and distribution."

At the moment the scheme is running only in the Birtley depot, although there are plans to develop it in the future.