Wednesday 17 June 2015

Supermarket re-sets, an overdue cull of the obvious? A Guest-KamBlog from Wayne Robinson

First we had Kingsmill as a big brand casualty. Followed quickly by Rachel's Organic. Topped off by news that Cott have just been displaced in Tesco.

The range culling could take up to 18 months according to Jason Tarry at the IGD Tesco trade briefing.

That's 18 months of pain, and 18 month's watching the merry-go-round of brands and tertiary players being displaced in one retailer and (hopefully) winning in another retailer. It will be interesting to see how the brand distribution landscape looks at the end of the process. This industry "re-setting", whilst fascinating to observe, will undoubtedly have a far reaching and lasting impact, and not necessarily for the better for some manufacturers.

Certainly sme's at the other end of the manufacturing scale must be feeling very exposed. Research from Begbies Traynor highlighted over 1,400 food manufacturers were in "distress" - a rise of 94% yoy. The likely causes being the fall-out from the price war centered around the LAD's. Who knows what those numbers will look like once the full effects of the impending range changes kick-in.

So how do manufacturers respond to this next wave of turmoil and capitalise on the inevitable opportunities that it will throw up?

Could I suggest three ways?

1. Lurch into analysis mode...deep diving in to category data...ranking ros...etc. Am sure that it will help, but it feels a bit late for doing that...if you have a duff product with low ros then it shouldn't be on the shelf in the first place, and you have to accept that your days are numbered. (Dave Lewis stated at the IGD trade briefing that 20% of sku's in an Extra store were only selling 1 pack per store per week. Gulp.) Let's face it do we really think that Kingsmill, Rachel's and Cott didn't put the data in front of Tesco? It's not only the market/consumer data that will be swaying decisions about products on the shelves; there will be a financial element to this too.

2. Use your research and insight to bring products to market that are focused on consumers needs and have a true usp that add value to the category...otherwise known as innovation. Pret recently claimed in their annual results that innovation was a major contributing factor to their record results. We are so in need of some new news on the supermarket shelves to inspire us back in to shopping and move us all away from the price point paranoia that is taking the entire industry down a one-way street. Great article here highlighting that consumers are still searching for those exciting products...but struggling to find them, other than in specialists shops. Go figure.

3. Channel diversification. No manufacturer should be overly reliant on any one customer. There needs to be an acceptance that business with specific customers will ebb and flow; if you have a wide enough customer base then your overall sales will continue to grow and expand. There are plenty of growth opportunities outside of the grocery channel. Develop a plan, prioritise, and go forth and broaden your customer base!

With 30% of the range coming out of Tesco there is going to be some unpleasant fall-out. And whilst the remaining range will benefit from more space and perhaps more distribution, in the larger store format especially, there will still be plenty of opportunities and space for exciting and relevant new product development - Jason Tarry has made it clear that Tesco still want to have a market leading choice of products...and with Tesco claiming a renewed focus back on the Tesco brand, then this might be the saviour for many manufacturers looking to plug sales gaps.

Wayne Robinson -

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