The My Shop is Your Shop campaign (MSYS) is continuing to gain momentum three years after being launched by the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD). The centrepiece of the campaign, National Independents' Day (NID), takes place on June 1 and organisers are hoping for big things, with a record number of retailers pledging to get involved.
And with the news that the OFT is to refer the grocery market to the Competition Commission, there may not be a better time to highlight the importance of supporting independent c-stores.
Retailers across the country are gearing up for the big day and aim to attract publicity through the local press. Organisers are currently in the process of distributing special NID packs containing T-shirts, caps, stickers and balloons.
A record 4,000 retailers have requested the packs, with thousands more expected to participate through their involvement in the national money-off coupons promotion featuring in the Daily Mirror and Daily Record. And retailers have also been busy planning special events to attract the attention of shoppers on the day.
William and Lesley Brown run Frankmarsh Stores in Barnstaple, Devon. Having taken part in NID for the first time last year, they are keen to organise another successful day. "We had a very busy day in 2005, even though the weather wasn't great," says Lesley. "This year we're going to make it more product-based. We've got the Chewits dinosaur coming down and our local Wrigley rep will be getting people to try some new flavours. We're also going to have a shopping basket competition where people have to guess the price of the goods. The idea is to show that just because we're a small shop, we're not necessarily expensive."
Famous for his appearance as Darth Vader on last year's NID, Londis retailer Alan Fincham is this year turning to local history as the focal point for activity at his Attleborough store in Norfolk. As Attleborough is the original home of Gaymers cider, Alan and his staff are planning to wear traditional cider- makers' costumes and hold a small exhibition of photos and artifacts highlighting the town's history. Alan has also teamed up with his local brewer, Wolf's, which is now on the site of the old Gaymers brewery. Shoppers will get the chance to taste a number of local bottled beers, which will then be available to buy in the store.
"We're in the process of gathering photos and bits and pieces from the public and I think a lot of people will be interested in finding out what went on in the area in the past or reliving their memories. We'll hold the exhibition from June 1 through to the town carnival 10 days later. I definitely think the day is getting bigger. It was a big step forward last year but I think it's going to be as big a step up again this time around."
Wholesalers and cash and carry depots have also been pushing the importance of the campaign in an attempt to get as many retailers as possible involved. Parfetts managing director Steve Parfett agrees that this year's NID is set to be the biggest yet. "The MSYS campaign and NID have made steady progress every year and retailers are realising that it is going to be an ongoing event," says Parfett. "The growth is inevitable really. We've had two successful years now and people understand the whole campaign a lot more. We need to infuse the idea in retailers that customers need to see something in their windows. It's all part of the lobbying activity which is looking to secure the future for small independent shops."
He adds: "We've highlighted the day in our recent mailouts and have got huge posters highlighting the voucher activity in our depots. We're hoping retailers won't be able to escape all the activity in the run up to the big day. We really hope everyone will get on board and wear the T-shirts and caps to create a real impact."
Nisa-Today's has also been encouraging its members to participate as fully as possible. A group spokeswoman explains: "We've promoted the campaign through varying communications channels including our in-house magazine Consortium and through our member bulletins. We've also been notifying our members well in advance to stock up on products included in the vouchers featuring in the Daily Mirror and Daily Record, to ensure that they can meet demand and continue to provide an effective service to their communities."
Londis retailers are also being urged to play their part in the day by saying 'thank you' to their customers for supporting their stores. The group's lorry drivers have been busy distributing an information leaflet suggesting ways retailers can make the most of this year's NID. The leaflet also doubles up as a poster which retailers can place in their shop window. Londis is also giving a case of wine to its best local campaign.
Acting MBL marketing director Ross Halliday explains: "As independent retailers at the heart of the community, Londis retailers have a unique advantage over their multiple competitors - they are local. Many retailers have ingenious ways of supporting their communities, from supporting the football team through to sponsoring a theatre production for a local charity. These retailers have a unique selling point and NID provides the perfect backdrop for getting their stores noticed."
MSYS campaign chairman Alan Toft hopes the public and press will latch on to NID as in previous years. "A network of wholesaler and independent representatives have been set up to cover the country and they will be on stand-by for interviews by local, regional and national media on the day," says Toft.

On the NID campaign trail

Wendy Shinn, Stourpain PO and Stores, Blandford, Dorset: "We wanted to get involved again this year and ensure the campaign was highlighted in our community. We will be using all the pos material in the pack and we're also hoping to hold a drawing competition for the children again. All of the drawings will be placed in the window and customers can vote for their favourite. Last year the prize was a portable CD player."

Nigel Dowdney, Stalham Shopper and Open All Hours, Norwich: "I'll have all the posters and stickers up and we'll definitely be showing our usual support for the campaign. We've also participated with the Nisa leaflet which has gone out to about 9,000 local households. There is a higher level of interest among our customers this year but we still need to target a lot more people. We're all doing our bit and NID has to be seen as just one part of an ongoing campaign to get people to shop locally."

Adrian Smirthwaite, Levenshulme Stores, Greater Manchester: "We'll definitely be backing the campaign again this year. We certainly saw the benefits in 2005 with all the extra customers who popped in - some just to see what it was all about. It gets everyone talking about the campaign and how important they feel our shop is to the community."

John Braithwaite, Brookside Stores, Stretton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire: "We're looking to make sure everyone in the local community is aware of the day. This is the first year we've taken part, however. Although I was aware of the day last year, we've since had a refit completed and we are now better placed to take part in the day."

Tom Irving, Llangybi Village Shop and Post Office, Monmouth, South Wales: "We're going to spruce up the shop with all the promotional material on the day and will also be handing out flyers in the village and other nearby hamlets. We're hoping to involve the local press and organise a photo shoot for added publicity."