When offered something free one usually wonders, where's the catch? But, at advice level, there is quite a lot of free stuff around (I should know as, not only are my services free to readers courtesy of C-Store, but in the course of offering this service for the past 12 years I have amassed quite a list of other free help available, from business, to government, to legal advice lines).
So when Dave Deol, an unaffiliated independent who runs Michael's in Birmingham, rang to see if anyone could help him with his booze layout, I had the answer.
He has just revamped his store with the help of Landmark Wholesale and its Hot House retail programme. However, he decided against using the group's Lifestyle fascia as Michael's is a well-accepted traditional grocery name in Birmingham. He also felt that, while happy with Landmark's advice for the rest of the store, he needed specialist help for the BWS category.
"Is there anyone out there who can help me with merchandising my alcohol section?" he asked.
Cue Federation of Wholesale Distributors' Blueprint for alcohol. If you look at the website - www.fwd.co.uk - you will find easy links to Blueprint on all the sub categories of beers, lagers, ciders, alcohol RTDs, and wines and spirits. There are downloadable planograms incorporating the best sellers and top tips.
There are also contact details for IMA, the merchandising company which will actually come out to your store and do all the hard work. Ross Shelley at IMA tells me that the Blueprint team of 12 works full time visiting stores. "Since we launched in 1994 up to 12,000 retailers have been visited," says Shelley. "We spend up to six-and-a-half hours in the stores, and it can be quite a dirty job, clearing out the shelves and so on."
The work is funded by Blueprint's supplier partners (the big guns in the booze world). All you need to add is your commitment.