Pick your partner

It’s important to know what you’re getting into when considering a new symbol group. Here’s our checklist.

If you’re switching symbol groups or joining one for the first time, will you need to carry out a refit? If so, will there be help with costs, planning and project management? Will you have to meet given standards? Does the fascia organisation have a dedicated EPOS system? Can you use your own EPOS system if you prefer?

THERE are obvious benefits to partnering with a symbol group – access to better deals, a stronger support network and the allure of a recognisable name over the door, to name a few examples. And a growing number of shopkeepers are singing the praises of franchise retailing. But every operation offers something different and it’s down to retailers to make the right call about which group best suits them. So how do you choose and how do you qualify?


As with anything else in business, you really should consider all aspects of costs. Those will include cost of goods – just how competitively priced is the wholesale service at the heart of the symbol package? Does it feature structured pricing based on the quantities you buy? Are there costs of membership? And if a refit is required, how much is the symbol group willing to chip in?


The size of your shop could well decide the best symbol or fascia for you. In the past some small shops haven’t qualified for a number of fascia schemes. That has changed with the launch of a number of new symbols specifically aimed at smaller shops.
At the other end of the scale some fascia operators now offer solutions for retailers with a lot of floor space. More and more these concepts are designed around chilled, fresh food and food to go, and as such require significant investment in refrigeration and food prep areas.
Make sure the deal you’re considering suits the size and aspirations of your business.

Food to go is becoming increasingly important to convenience stores (and the grocery market in general). Does your prospective symbol or franchise partner have arrangements with branded food-to-go suppliers?


What’s the length of the agreement? If you wanted to get out of it what would be involved? Do you have to agree a minimum spend of wholesale purchases?


One of the advantages of being an independent retailer is the flexibility to respond quickly to changes in convenience shopping. As consumer habits evolve, having access to a wide range becomes ever more important.
How appropriate to your store’s needs is your symbol group’s range? If you need substantial amounts of fresh produce and chilled goods does your group provide those lines? Do they have arrangements with a specialist distributor? And is the supply line strong enough to maintain your availability?

Own-label and value label

If you’re facing direct competition from discounters or pound shops, a good own-label or value-label range can provide you with much-needed ammunition in the fight.
How does the fascia or franchise firm arrange supply of own-label and value label lines? Are they of good quality? And do they provide good margins for retailers?

What’s the regular promotional programme like? Are you required to participate in promotions? Are there must-stock items that you are required to sell? And does your potential symbol partner have a range of competitive own-label products?


Many retailers regard promotions as vital to their success, especially those serving cash-conscious customers.
Does your prospective symbol partner run attractive promotions as part of a regular programme? Are they supported by marketing activity like promotional leaflets and web and social media activity?

Help and advice

Does the fascia or franchise service offer help with planograms, merchandising and other aspects of marketing?
Can you get assistance with training or issues like workplace pensions? If you enter difficulties, will the group be there to support you?
Does the symbol group have its own dedicated EPOS system and ordering system? If not, does it have a recommended provider?
Similarly, is the group going to help you keep updated with mobile apps, in-store beacons and other new technology that can help to grow your business in the future?