New year, fresh start?

Day-Today store

With a fresh new year lying ahead of us, it’s the ideal time for Scotland’s local retailers to find new ways of unlocking new profitable growth in tough times. One way of adding new momentum is by leveraging the power of a supportive fascia, symbol or franchise partner.


So it’s 2020. A new year and a new Government but arguably just as much confusion and uncertainty as ever. Doing business has never been tougher and it looks like things might get worse before they get better up here in Scotland. Political upheaval looks set to be the norm for the foreseeable future with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and prime Minister Boris Johnson likely to be at loggerheads for the foreseeable future and, should Sturgeon get her way, a messy repeat of the social chaos that surrounded the last independence referendum is on the cards.

No, 2020 isn’t looking likely to be a year of calm reconstruction and rebuilding. And that’s before we get to the more mundane challenges of the minimum wage, DRS, utility bill increases, business rates, new tobacco legislation and new legislation aimed at restricting sales of ‘unhealthy foods’.

Finding new ways of reducing costs and driving up footfall, sales and profits, then, has never been more pressing and has never been more challenging. Evolving your business to embrace vital trends like coffee, food-to-go, fresh and chilled and such like is one way that retailers can drive bigger margin sales, but possibly the most effective quick fix that any store can implement is by joining a symbol group to gain access to the huge array of benefits that they can bring. Or, if you are already part of a symbol group, perhaps it’s time to consider if a different one might be more appropriate for your model?

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 – in fact, the opposite is true. 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 symbol 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 brings.

The number of stores that now belong to one symbol group or another is fast approaching the 50% mark today, and that’s for a reason. 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 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. The pros for retailers considering joining or switching symbol groups are numerous and the cons are few.

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, do your research before determining which group is right for you – then when you do commit, make sure you commit fully to give your refreshed business the best possible chance of building long-term sustainable growth.


Help your business flourish with Nisa

Nisa Local store

Nisa is the proven partner of choice for many market-leading, independently minded retailers in Scotland. With multi award-winning stores including Pinkie Farm, Ardeer Services, Greens of Markinch and Giacopazzi’s Milnathort, to name just a few, there never has been a better time to join the group.

Nisa was acquired by the Co-op in May last year and since then the wholesale operation has been providing an environment in which independent retailers can really flourish. The new structure brings enhanced buying capability, allowing Nisa partners to trade their businesses in the way they choose, backed by competitive prices and promotions with access to a deeper range including more than 2,000 of Co-op’s award-winning, high quality own brand products.

Retailers have the option to operate under a symbol fascia; Nisa Local or Nisa Extra, or dual branded, whereby a Nisa partner can maintain their own local identity whilst also benefiting from the strength of the Nisa brand. Alternatively, a retailer can choose to trade under their own independent fascia.

Through its latest Evolution store format, Nisa offers flexibility to retailers with a more modular development format which accommodates the individual demographic and shopping missions of each store. The concept takes on board emerging trends in the marketplace to create a store design that demonstrates to retailers how best to capture additional footfall and spend while setting themselves apart from the competition. The Evolution format has seen great success, with retailers on average achieving a 12 per cent uplift in sales since conversion.

Nisa provides a complete retail support package which comprises a strong retail focused team, an enhanced category management system, a bespoke staff training facility under the Retail Academy banner, and a comprehensive marketing package incorporating social media and PR support, bespoke leaflets, point of sale material, a personalised Nisa FM radio network and national advertising.

Nisa’s flexible model provides its retailers with an unbeatable breadth of range of more than 13,000 SKUs, to ensure they can provide a single destination shop for all their customers’ needs. This includes access to in excess of 2,000 Co-op own brand products across all categories, which offers a recognised, quality brand for shoppers and good margins for retailers. Nisa’s award winning own label range, Heritage, is also available, providing even more choice with great quality products at affordable prices. This is all delivered by Nisa’s industry leading supply chain which retailers can trust with an impressive 99.9% of deliveries made on the day and 95% successfully made on time.

Nisa’s independent retailers are enjoying the greatest availability rates since 2014 with an average of almost 98% in 2019. A strong focus on availability for the past 12 months has given the best service to Nisa partners for more than five years, generating an additional £40million in annualised sales.

With its own insight team Nisa can help retailers truly understand their customers and their marketplace, enabling them to modify their offer to match the ‘local’ demographic. Retailers can then use this in conjunction with Nisa’s category management service to create bespoke planograms, layouts and propositions within their individual sites.

A comprehensive support structure is provided to ensure retailers continue to push their business forward. Support comes from a strong field team including retail development managers and regional retail managers as well as fresh food development managers, who encourage retailers to make the most of this important category, and store development managers who help partners to develop their stores and proposition.

Finally, Nisa recognises the importance of community involvement, and as such its retailers can support good causes in their local area through Nisa’s Making a Difference Locally charity, which has donated more than £9 million to charities and good causes throughout the UK since its formation in 2008.

To Join Nisa complete the form online or contact our development team on 0800 542 7490.