Sales surge at Christmas and even if the major supermarkets have been taking the lion's share in recent years, independent retailers need to get their range right if they are not to lose sales and alienate potential customers.

In a move to help retailers, Premier Foods has distributed a wide range of material through cash & carries, providing guidance for retailers and highlighting key brands. Carla Rampley, Premier Foods channel marketing manager C&C/convenience, says: "We try to bring Christmas a bit more alive in the depot and raise the profile of our brands, such as key sellers Paxo and Bisto at Christmas."

At Parfetts depot in Sheffield the full range of Premier material is on display with freestanding display units, bus stop signs, wobblers, shelf strips, barkers and promotional packs for retailers. Inside is advice on ranging and merchandising seasonal lines and an 'opening hours' poster to advertise stores' opening times over the festive season.

The man responsible for the range offered to retailers at the Sheffield depot is buyer Roger Jegasothy. He's proud of his close relationship with his retailer customers, pointing out that his office is on the shopfloor, unlike buyers in other companies who are often tucked away on the first floor, and he operates an open- door policy so retailers can pop in and see him at any time.

Roger's main contact at Premier is business development manager Jaz Johal, and in addition to keeping him informed about the national promotions that are running Jaz also has the flexibility to arrange local promotions for Roger. He says: "If Roger is particularly interested in an item that isn't on promotion then we can work with the national account executive and devise a promotion. We do a lot of local deals at this depot."

An example is Norfolk stuffing, which is in big demand locally at Christmas, but not on national promotion. Roger raised it with Jaz and they were able to arrange a local deal, which is currently in place.

Roger says: "Paxo is the main seller everywhere else, but in the Nottingham area we sell pallets and pallets of Norfolk stuffing. Christmas is very important for items like this."

Lucky Tiwana, Rhodesia Post Office, Worksop, Nottinghamshire

"We're a village convenience store and post office with a mix of customers with council and private housing and some passing trade.

"I like the Go Local promotions at Parfetts as they provide something for everyone, and seasonal promotions.

I can also go to [buyer] Roger or [general manager] Graham at any time and ask if they can get in a line they don't stock and within a day or two they'll have got it.

"I'm looking to grow my grocery business. With money getting tighter customers are using their local stores more. They want to buy food when they need it and don't want bogofs because they end up chucking stuff away."

Robert Riley, Dykeshill Store, hillsborough, sheffield

"We're really a mini market and on a housing estate. Our trade is mainly regular customers with whom we have a bit of banter.

"Bisto and Paxo sell well all year, but especially at Christmas. Customers today are looking to buy cheaper. If there's an own brand they will try it, but there aren't really alternatives to things like Bisto and Paxo.

"Parfetts has very friendly staff and they are all as helpful as they can be, from the top down, often beyond the call of duty. The atmosphere in the depot is different to any other; in other depots you see the same retailers but they never say anything. Here we all speak to each other."

Stuart Higham, Drinks Express, Handsworth, Sheffield

"We're based on a housing estate, open from 11am to 9pm, and have a mixture of regulars and passing trade. Customers mainly buy beer, cigarettes and sweets, but I do stock a basic range of groceries.

"I'm currently doing up the shop and looking to expand groceries, but it will always be mainly top-up shopping because I have an Asda 500 yards down the road.

"Most of my customers are men who buy a four-pack of beer and then buy Paxo or whatever because they forgot to get it at the supermarket.

"I'm really pleased Parfetts opened in Sheffield. I used to go to its Somercotes depot before."