Three mechanics from UK suppliers looking to re-engage with independent retail in 2021 (part 1)

Date : 03 March 2021

Patrick Mitchell-Fox

Senior Retail Analyst

While 2020 saw independent retailers experiencing growth unlike any other year, it was often a bewildering 12 months for suppliers to the sector. Certainly many suppliers have seen their products getting significant sales uplifts, but by no means have all benefited to the same extent.

Moreover, even those suppliers that were able to ‘catch the wave’ often faced disruption as demand outstripped availability and marketing plans had to be re-thought. And indeed all have been faced with the challenge of changing consumer behaviours and the need to adapt their strategies to optimize performance within these new realities.

Changing behaviour has impacted the convenience sector more than most

This changing behaviour has impacted the convenience sector more than most due to the marked shift in the balance between take-home and impulse purchasing. People spending more time at home and less time on the move, has driven demand for store-cupboard products and bigger, take-home pack sizes while demand for eat/drink-now products in single servings (typically a mainstay for convenience stores) has slackened.

Now at the outset of 2021, even though the pandemic still seems to have a way to go, suppliers to the channel are taking stock and seeking to revamp their communication with retailers to re-engage with them, aiming to build on new opportunities and/or to regain lost ground.

Core range messaging with impact: PepsiCo and Mars Petcare

With independent retailers often overwhelmed with complicated best practice category communication from a multiplicity of suppliers, the potential for cutting through with simple, and memorable, messaging clearly has significant value for getting specific products top-of retailers’ minds when purchasing for a category.

In snacks and pet care PepsiCo and Mars Petcare have sought to define the core role of their own products in category purchasing by putting into a single number the must-stock lines from their product portfolio to be included in any store.

Adapting its well-established ‘Hero 20’ messaging, in early in 2021 PepsiCo has launched a new ‘Hero 25’ campaign to drive awareness of the 25 key Walker’s products that retailers should be including in their snacks range. The extension of this core range to 25 recognises the need for retailers to increase their product selection, especially into bigger and sharing packs for the bigger take-home demand. To this PepsiCo has also added a ‘25 Drive’ range to enable retailers to readily extend the category choice for shoppers looking for more scope to meet more needs and tastes at home.

Meanwhile, Mars Petcare has launched its ‘Dream 16’ must-stocks campaign, looking to ensure independent retailers can meet increased demand for petfood locally, with a credible range of 16 products to meet a breadth of household needs. As well as finding opportunities to drive pet care sales through the independent retail channel due to increased home-based living, Mars’ initiative recognizes the general increase in pet ownership during the pandemic episode, but also the willingness of pet owners to spend more on their pets.

Looking for more insight on the convenience channel?

For subscribers looking for more on the channel, its growth, and opportunities to engage with it, please see our convenience channel hub.

In our second part of this article we will look at how suppliers are using the online channel and digital mechanics.