Sleeping with the Enemy?

07 June 2012, 13:46 pm
Speciality Bites by Paul Hargreaves

When Olives et al announced very publicly last week that they were supplying 4 of their lines into Sainsbury’s I had a number of people on social media goading me into a swift response to condemn this scurrilous activity!

Presumably Olives et al were nervous about announcing this in the context of their annual “Deli of the Year” competition, and didn’t want to appear to be disadvantaging their independent retailers by supplying Sainsbury’s.  Personally I don’t think they will as the number of products is a tiny percentage of their whole range, and as long as the retail prices are in the same ball park as independents they will be OK.  (I have tried without success this morning to find out the Sainsbury’s retail price.)

Give them their due, Olives et al went about things in a very public way and wrote to their independent retail customers to let them know what was going on.  This is far better than them finding out themselves and then moaning to their wholesaler – often us!  Some brand awareness in the supermarkets can often help with actually raising sales in the independents as whilst some more impulse purchases won’t be on consumer’s shopping lists, they may see the products whilst in a supermarket but may actually purchase them when in more “leisure-shopping” mode at the weekend in a farm shop or deli.  If I were to condemn this activity I would be a hypocrite anyway as we have just put four lines of a brand we import exclusively from the USA into the M & S International Brands area, and we are hoping that the increased brand awareness of Stonewall Kitchen might develop sales of that brand throughout the UK.  Again I have ensured that retail prices aren’t going to upset our independent customers for the brand.

Despite the fact that we are officially in a double-dip recession, we are noticing an increased confidence in the market, which is being reflected in our first batch of Christmas orders (yes, it’s the silly season again) being noticeably higher than last year’s.  Clearly the weather in April and May hasn’t helped at all, but as I write the sun is blazing in through my window and the two farm shops and garden centres I went in yesterday were absolutely rammed with customers.

Preparations are full-steam ahead for our Summer Ball, which is looking like there are going to be 200 people attending from the speciality food sector.  We can take up to 300, and would love to have that number there as it would help us raise more money for the orphanage in Kenya.  Apart from that primary aim, the event will be a fantastic networking event within the sector, which is what we are told is profoundly lacking in our sector.

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