Nisa is putting increased focus on service levels to retailers in what will prove to be a key year for the organisation.

With less than 200 days to go until Costcutter switches to a new supply partnership with P&H, Nisa chief executive Neil Turton told C-Store that additional investment had gone into the supply chain so that the organisation could be recognised as a “safe pair of hands” for retailers.

Additional investment has been made in delivery cages, pallets, people and vehicles, as well as more training for drivers to help them build a stronger relationship with retail customers.

“There were service difficulties for a couple of weeks in the summer, but at Christmas availability was excellent and there were high levels of satisfaction,” Turton explained. “We have been encouraging retailers not to use any other sources of supply, so we know we have to be perfect. Our service level needs to be a top priority - we’ve learned that from the summer.”

He continued: “Costcutter has made some extraordinary promises on range, price and service, but there is no transition agreement between us and them, so they will be trying to move a lot of stores on day one. Retailers currently order from us, so all we need to do is to retain them. We’ve budgeted on keeping a quarter of the Costcutter business, and if our offer is right we could exceed that. As long as we’re good at our day job, we’ll be in a good position come July.”

Nisa will also be investing in new store formats, an overhaul of the Heritage own brand to increase sales from £200m to £500m, and a new promotional programme, based on research with shoppers and retailers. The group has also been restructured into two business units for symbol group and independents & specialists, the latter including a growing contribution from the McColl’s chain.

“In our five-year plan, McColl’s will be the biggest single member, but only about 15% of total business,” added Turton. “There is no need to cut budgets or head count: Nisa is growing, we’re becoming more retail-focused and consumer-driven, and we’re feeling confident.”