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Four retailers discuss their relationships with their symbol groups and areas for improvement

Harj Gill, Windmill Select & Save, Birmingham

Goran Raven, Raven’s Budgens, Abridge, Essex 

Jordha Sanghera, Bells Nisa Local stores in Offmore and Habberley, Kidderminster

Julian Taylor Green, Spar Cape Avenue, Western Downs, Stafford, Staffordshire


Harj Gill

Harj Gill, Windmill Select & Save, Birmingham

“We’ve been with Select & Save for 10 years. We’ve got a really good rapport with them. Over the years and refits they’ve always helped. For example, if I say I want to change the middle aisle, they’ve come in and helped out. 

“I ring up our Business Development Manager and he’ll always answer, communication is good. He comes round and checks we’re up to date with the pricing. 

“The group listens to a certain extent. To implement certain changes would be too far, but with other things they have helped out. 

“I think they could improve on range, but that’s kind of down to [their primary supplier] Bestway. 

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Everything is so uncertain out there at the moment, I don’t think there’s anyone better [than Select & Save].”

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Goran Raven

Goran Raven, Raven’s Budgens, Abridge, Essex 

“We moved over to Budgens for the fresh range they offered, that was the big attraction for us.

“Considering all the pressures going on, I feel very well looked after. The communication is good - if they can’t get stuff and supply chains are causing an issue, they’ve been very upfront with us. We’ve had things like capping, which we don’t like, but we’re understanding why they’re doing it. You don’t want to hear it, but at least you can comprehend what’s going on. It makes it less of a bitter pill to swallow.

“There’s always things they haven’t done, but they do listen to us on some items - it isn’t ignored. They’re doing good, but they could do better.

“With vaping products - at the end of last year and early part of this year - when Geek and Elf bars were really starting to ramp up, we said ’you need to get on to this’ and they did listen. 

“I know I can get through to my rep and have a sensible conversation and get things done.

“I’d like to see more range and better availability, though I know some things are [caused by] external factors. 

“I feel very confident in facing future challenges with the group. I’m certainly not looking to change any time soon.”

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Jordha Sanghera

 Jordha Sanghera, Bells Nisa Local stores in Offmore and Habberley, Kidderminster

“We were with Nisa from the very start. One of our Habberley sites was one of the first Nisa stores to open (well before I was born) so it has been a natural progression with them. 

“Price is the biggest issue, prices are very expensive with our symbol group at Nisa. We understand that there’s a delivery fee, but if you compare prices with local wholesalers they’re a country mile away in some lines. All we need from the symbol is very competitive pricing, everything else we can take care of.

“With regards to bringing new products to the market, we have access to those, and they are continuing to bring our deliveries on time and on schedule, which is good. 

“We’re very much a customer to them. There’s no feedback taken on board at all. It’s not that type of relationship with Nisa. It used to be independently owned by the retailers for the retailers, but since they’ve been bought by Co-op there isn’t any influence that we have amongst any categories with them with regard to pricing, availability, or anything like that. 

“BDMs [Business Development Managers] are regularly there if we need them, but we’re quite experienced in what we do. Nisa is pushing their own brand to keep it in stock [rather than concentrating on the overall offer].

“We’re not staying with them because they’re the best thing since sliced bread. But it’s better the devil you know. The last thing we’d do is uproot our business.”

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Julian Taylor Green

Julian Taylor Green, Spar Cape Avenue, Western Downs, Stafford, Staffordshire

“Spar is one of the few brands retailers can trade in where the name above the store is the same as the products in the store. 

“All the RDCs [regional distribution centres] have their own stores and own businesses, so they’re actually seeing it for themselves. When we talk to them about issues, it’s not something they’re unaware of. There’s been a much higher degree of openness this year. Everything we’re facing, their retail stores are facing too, so they’re empathetic. 

“The range is considerably large and they’re doing work on the top 125 lines as well [as part of the Spotlight project aimed at increasing own-label penetration].

“Like everyone else, there’s always distribution challenges. But there’s support from a business development team and there’s co-investment.

“I was at a Blakemore seminar recently - they still treat you as a business partner and the guild mechanism gives their customers the ability to influence Spar UK. 

“If their retailers want to interact with them, they are there and prepared to listen. 

“They’ll also support you in terms of finance as well which is more difficult to get when you talk to banks and lending houses. 

“In terms of improvements, they need to move more fleet of foot. Being a big business, collectively Spar UK is a big beast and takes considerably longer than an independent retailer would want to get things over the line. 

“I am extremely nervous about what the future looks like in terms of the cost of operating the business.- clearly wages are going to move substantially next year, we’ve already got the electricity challenge … Equally, there’s a degree of confidence that if they can maintain the brand, the availability, they can distribute effectively to us - and from Blakemore’s perspective there’s been massive investment in terms of Bedford [distribution depot launched last year], then we are still well positioned to maintain our market share as independent retailers and ultimately as a brand as well.”

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