Britvic and Blakemore have found an innovative way to highlight new products to retailers visiting the company’s Wolverhampton branch

opinion
Geeta Doal 
Doal Food & News, Wheaton Aston 
"It's a really good idea to show the new products this way. They really stand out and there is good availability. Soft drinks are really important to our business. We have a lot of local trade and the school bus stop is outside our shop so we get a lot of business from schoolchildren during term time. During the hot weather sales were massively up but it's not just the summer, soft drinks sell all year round." 

Kaljit Shergill 
Easy Save, Willenhall 
"Soft drinks are our best sellers and we try to have a really wide range in our coolers. We stock up at Blakemore every week. When they are on promotion they really fly out. 'Two fors' sell really well. Customers like a lot of branded stuff. The Focus Zone is a really good idea. We will buy three or four cases of anything new and give it a go, and we use the posters and the pos." 

Jaz Boughan 
LifeStyle Express, Ford Houses, Wolverhampton 
"I like soft drinks because the profit margins are high and they look good on the shelves. I come into Blakemore's every morning and always walk round and buy something that's not on my list. I've been coming here for about four years and I know all the staff and they all know my name. There's a community feeling about it and even if it is a little bit more expensive on some lines I still prefer to come here. "I like the Focus Zone. I always have a look and check the profit on return. I like having the new launches because the customers like it and it's a reason for them to come in and see what's new. We position our promotions by the door so customers see them as they come in and we'll ask them whether they have seen them."
When you are speeding around the cash and carry, picking up the products on your list, how do you spot the new launches that are going to grab the interest of your customers?

This is the problem Blakemore Wholesale and Britvic are trying to tackle with the Focus Zone, a tent-like structure featuring the latest new products, which is positioned just inside the entrance to the depot at Wolverhampton Science Park. In addition to promotional stock, the zone also features pos highlighting the price and the profit on return of the new products, and pos material and leaflets for retailers to take away.

This is a three-month trial that has been led by Britvic's category manager Adrian Howe and Landmark account manager Charlie Heerey. The concept was presented to Blakemore trading controller Steve Hadley in early spring and the trial began in July.

Hadley says highlighting new products in a depot has long been a problem: "This concept is ideal. It's so simple you wonder why it hasn't been thought of before. It highlights and identifies where these new products are."

The initiative is not just aimed at growing sales of Britvic products, but is intended to grow the category, and NPD from other categories will be showcased, too. Heerey says: "Although it was sponsored by Britvic, it doesn't always have to be Britvic products in it, so other suppliers' NPD could be showcased as well."

Hadley also suggests that suppliers need to communicate with retailers about up-coming TV advertising, so retailers can stock up with the product before it breaks, and they could use the Focus Zone to do this.

Depot manager Alan Tilt comments: "A lot of customers shop from the Zone, but it also acts as a reminder so that when they reach the soft drinks aisle it is fresh in their minds so they pick the products up there, too."

He also appreciates the simplicity of the concept. He says that with retailers constantly being sent so many leaflets they can be dazzled by the multitude of offers and just not take them in.

He believes the best impact is achieved by Blakemore Wholesale's system of texting offers to customers on a Sunday, and that the Focus Zone does a good job by reinforcing the message when they enter the depot.

If the Zone is a success in Wolverhampton, there are plans to roll it out to the other depots in the Blakemore estate, as well as other wholesalers.

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