Perennially rising costs and ever-tougher competition mean that in today’s local retailing industry the choice is less about whether to join a symbol group or fascia than it is about which one to join. Without the backing of a major group it’s becoming all but impossible for many retailers to maintain a competitive offering. SLR takes a close look at some of the best options available.
Let’s be honest, for many independent local retailers in Scotland these days the choice is less whether to join a fascia group or franchise and more about which one to join. Life as an unaffiliated independent is looking increasingly unsustainable for many as the costs of being in business just seem to keep growing by the week.
The lure of becoming part of something bigger is an enticing one and is one of the few decisions that an unaffiliated retailer can make that is all but certain to improve the business. Access to much greater buying power and all the benefits that come with being part of a larger organisation can be the difference between profit and loss in today’s ultra-competitive market.
Joining a symbol group or fascia doesn’t mean that retailers need to lose their independence – quite the opposite. While the different groups all have different criteria that members must meet in terms of buying commitments and compliance, the one thing they all share is commitment to allowing local retailers to retain their independent status, something that’s non-negotiable for most.
But joining a group offers all the benefits of being part of a nationwide collective of like-minded retailers with access to big buying power and the many invaluable support mechanisms that membership of a symbol group brings.
The attractiveness of that offer can be assessed by simply looking at the sheer number of stores that now belong to one symbol group or another. In 2002 around 22% of stores were members; that number is fast approaching the 50% mark today. One other point worth noting is that very, very few retailers decide to return to being unaffiliated after joining a group. They may subsequently switch symbols, but they don’t tend to go back to being unaffiliated once they’ve had a taste of what’s on offer as part of a bigger group.
So whether you are considering joining one of these groups for the first time, or are considering moving from one to another, this guide will provide you with the key data you need to make a fully informed decision as to which fascia is right for you.
The great news is that the range of choices available has never been greater. Each partner has its own particular strengths, but they all offer buying power, a household name above the door and a comprehensive support network covering everything a retailer needs to remain competitive in today’s retail environment.
Choosing a symbol group can seem an intimidating task. It is a big commitment, especially if you are already tied into a contract or faced with joining fees – whether this is in the form of an admin charge, buying shares or paying for signage or delivery. But there is no doubt it can pay huge dividends.
How to decide which symbol group is right for you will ultimately depend on your shoppers and what they want you to offer them.
It might come down to the kind of store standards you are prepared to meet and your ways of working. If, for example, you are simply looking for a way of running promotions effectively then you might want to consider joining a cash & carry-based symbol group where you would normally go into depot and pick up the goods yourself.
The pros for retailers considering joining or switching symbol groups are numerous, not least because of the support a fascia can offer a retailer in every aspect of running their convenience store, from exclusive discounts and buying power to staff training, running a social media page and availability of new technologies.
Being part of a symbol group gives you the backing and the knowledge, from promotions to posters and displays, along with the merchandising system and product knowledge to help make your business a success.
Groups will send several reps and provide supplier contacts. They can offer an in-depth analysis of what you should stock, where you should stock it and how much you should be making.
The support and advice that is given regarding store development should soothe shop owners who are nervous of change, and groups may introduce their own recommended shopfitter to give you help with project planning and store layout. Many also have their own consultants who can do detailed reports on potential or increased turnover.
These can be simple or very detailed, taking into account the demographic area around the shop and local competition.
Sometimes there will be a fee, but it may be worth the cost as often it gives additional industry-specific information that will support any application. This information, when backed by the weight of a symbol brand, can add an influential supporting voice to any finance application.
Retailers should ask themselves whether remaining unaffiliated is detrimental to their potential as a business. Whatever level you decide to go in at, it is best to do your research before determining which symbol group is right for you.