Symbols work to win business

Fascia groups taking big strides to entice retailers

KeyStore retailers are now benefiting from Filshill's move to a purpose-built HQ.
KeyStore retailers are now benefiting from Filshill’s move to a purpose-built HQ.

SCOTLAND’S quality wholesale and symbol group sectors have worked really hard during 2023 to ensure that their propositions are the best that they can be.

And that is good news for retailers who may be considering switching fascia in the early part of this year as a whole host of convenience channel groups strive to grow their presence in communities across the country.

The businesses behind the various fascias have been investing in depots, technology, sustainability and trade shows, as well as making some key appointments.

Indeed, retailers only have to look at the array of symbols that were winners at the Scottish Grocer Awards 2023 to realise that there are many attractive options out there.

Day-Today and USave symbols operator United Wholesale Scotland (UWS) reckons it has the edge over rivals because of the comprehensive support package it offers retailers.

This includes marketing assistance, daily support through its symbol development managers, access to a wide range of products, including its own-label Lifestyle brand to drive value, and promotional pricing.

Added to this, retailers should consider the benefits of the distribution network, training, operational guidance and help with category management, says UWS.

As part of its focus on retailers, former marketing chief Naeem Khaliq, who has worked at UWS for 35 years, has become Day-Today controller, with the aim of helping to grow the business of the symbol’s retailers even further.

As well as investing in digital technology, sustainability is also a key part of the UWS offering and that has seen the wholesaler promote free disposable vape recycling bins for its shops.

Spar Scotland stores are witnessing an evolving programme of improvements.
Spar Scotland stores are witnessing an evolving programme of improvements.

Showing further commitment to its retailers, UWS hosted a highly successful trade show last summer, attended by over 80 suppliers and more than 200 retailers – and complete with an awards ceremony that celebrated excellence in retail achievements and supplier partnerships.

JW Filshill has now settled into its purpose-built, hi-tech, eco-friendly distribution centre near Glasgow airport that the ambitious wholesaler says will allow it to double the number of KeyStore shops it supplies by 2031.

As chief executive Simon Hannah has said: “We will use the facility to drive unrivalled operational efficiency and promote the keenest prices as we aspire to become the most frictionless wholesaler in Scotland for our customers and suppliers to do business with.”

More recently, Filshill has shown its intention to support its KeyStore retailers with the appointment of the highly experienced Kieran Dhinsa as a new business development manager to work alongside Roy Williams and Rab Paton.

Chief sales and marketing officer Craig Brown said the aim was “to grow our KeyStore estate by recruiting ambitious independent retailers who want to embrace technology within their business”.

Indeed, Filshill says its EPOS system and cutting-edge technology helps retailers keep on top of their businesses and means they can instantly see what is selling in customers’ stores and tweak planograms accordingly.

Brown also pointed out that the KeyStore format gave joining retailers the flexibility of independent retailing with the support network of a big brand supermarket.

The strengths of Spar Scotland and its wholesaler CJ Lang & Son have become most evident at the annual conference and trade show held by the symbol in Aviemore in recent years.

More than 870 delegates thronged to the event in September 2023, with 200 FMCG suppliers in attendance.

The conference allowed Spar Scotland to highlight its ambitious store refurbishment programme, hi-tech and efficiency activities, food to go developments, ties with the Scottish Football Association and donations to local causes.

And the group’s ambitions for growth are plain to see from recent developments, with CJ Lang acquiring the chain of nine ScotFresh Group stores.

Modernisation and growth are on the agenda for the Premier fascia in Scotland.
Modernisation and growth are on the agenda for the Premier fascia in Scotland.

And former Scotmid senior manager Frank McCarron is taking on the role of company-owned store director with the aim of taking the estate to the next level.

Spar Scotland chief exec Colin McLean has highlighted the comprehensive range of products across ambient, chilled and frozen that, he says, allows retailers to maximise the sales and profitability of their stores.

He added that value was a key proposition, particularly on major daily lines, in order to offer customers savings and, in turn, drive sales for retailers.

The chief executive believes that being genuinely Scottish has enabled CJ Lang to provide a first-class service to its independent retail customers.

He said: “We are now attracting the very best of Scottish retailers to join Spar Scotland thanks to our competitive wholesale-delivered package and own-label Spar range, while sharing the best learning from our company store investment programme.”

Modernisation and growth has been on the mind of Booker, too, with its recent slew of refits for the Premier symbol – which is a force to be reckoned with in Scotland.

Having celebrated the milestone of the opening of its 500th Premier store north of the border, Booker remains ambitious about the future of the fascia thanks to a string of updates.

These include improved sustainable lighting, its modern Refresh @ Premier stations that provide a choice of hot or frozen drinks, as well as its Beer Cave cool rooms that keep chilled at a set 10°C.

But beyond that, Booker is aiming to bring new audiences and consumers into the convenience channel through its Social Content set-up.

Booker says the new social media platform allows retailers to set up content to go live across a host of apps and websites, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The wholesaler says it is always learning through its stores, too. It looks to different Premier outlets across Scotland to learn about what’s popular with consumers and Booker can use that to entice further customers to the symbol group.

Nisa says that it recognises the ambitious, entrepreneurial spirit of its retailers.
Nisa says that it recognises the ambitious, entrepreneurial spirit of its retailers.

United Wholesale Grocers (UWG) reckons it has the ability to give retailers the kind of bespoke fit that is perfect for their stores – thanks to its choice of Lifestyle Express, Shopsmart and Shop Local fascias.

UWG says its benefits for retailers include regular promotions on essential products high on the consumer’s shopping list, POS support, category and merchandising advice, and support from a dedicated development manager to satisfy every retailer’s unique needs for their store.

Along with this, UWG believes retailers have more choice with its selection of symbols, allowing shopkeepers to further tailor things to their needs and find what they’re looking for.

UWG is also affiliated with the Unitas buying group, which helps to ensure further security for retailers, according to the wholesaler.

It gives access to a range that suits the store, a complete set of planograms that represent best sellers as well as core, extended and regional ranges that are all easily available through Unitas’ Plan for Profit website and app.

Nisa reckons its strength lies in recognising the ambitious, entrepreneurial spirit of its customers and the need for stand-out to compete.

A spokesperson said: “We understand their desire to build their own business, a need for insight and tailored support from retail experts and the importance of quality products.”

The fascia group says its work with multi-award-winning Scottish retailers such as Greens Retail, PGNJ Ltd and Whytes of New Pitsligo proves that it is the partner of choice for many market-leading independent operators.

Nisa also cited the benefits of readily available access to an extensive product range of more than 13,000 SKUs and about 2,500 Co-op own-brand products. The group has also invested in price reductions for many of these lines.

Other moves include plans to update more than 300 store fascias in three years, which will help boost sales, and improving the rebate scheme.

Nisa has also recruited two new retail development managers – Phil Knox and Fiona Shearer – to provide expert advice in Scotland.