New year, new approach?

Spar Scotland warehouse

With a fresh new year underway and as much pressure as ever on retailers thanks to ever-rising costs, it could be the perfect time for a fresh start with a new symbol partner that better meets your specific needs.

By Antony Begley

Covid may very much be in the rearview mirror, but the effects of the pandemic continue to be felt all these years later. As we enter a fresh new year, our industry is still facing a barrage of challenges like inflation, energy costs, staffing challenges, legislation and more. On the face of it, 2024 looks set to be another difficult year – which might mean it’s the perfect time for some to consider a fresh start.

Help at hand

The apparent attractions of joining another symbol group, franchise or fascia is strong, but it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Joining another symbol group is unlikely to be a magic bullet that makes all your problems go away. Indeed, the symbol groups these days seem to be choosier than ever when it comes to recruiting new stores and most will demand definite commitments from retailers before they’ll even entertain a conversation about joining.

The first question to ask yourself when looking at a new partner is simple: would my business be better, stronger and more profitable with a different symbol or franchise partner? And if so, why do you say that? You need a clear vision of precisely how you plan to benefit from having a new wholesale partner, not just a vague hope that things will get better.

A partnership involves two parties and the success of that partnership requires both parties to pull their weight, work closely together and meet the challenges together for mutual benefit.

Only by truly working hand in hand with your symbol group will you fully exploit the many opportunities that exist in 2024.

So, it takes a very clear eye and a very frank and dispassionate analytical approach to decide whether the grass is indeed greener. The key here is to firstly identify the areas of your own business that aren’t performing the way you want them to. Whether that’s margins, stock levels, staffing, admin, pricing or something else. A new symbol group can’t fix all of these problems for you on day one. They can help on lots of fronts, but they can’t wipe the slate clean for you in an instant.

Once you’ve identified the weak areas, then it’s time to analyse the various options on the table, trying to establish which groups are most likely to be able to help you with the weaknesses you’ve already identified.

Comparing symbol groups is a complex task and some would say that there is no completely reliable way to analyse how good a symbol group is until you’ve signed on that dotted line and actually started trading.

Talking to other retailers is a great way to learn more about the nitty gritty of what lies under the bonnet of each of the major groups but, once again, tread carefully and don’t take everything you hear as indisputable fact. All you’re hearing is one person’s subjective view of what it’s like to work with this or that symbol group. If another retailer feels like they had a bad time with a particular group, that doesn’t mean you will too.

But, after all that, if you are still keen to test the waters, we have produced a brief guide to some of the leading symbol groups in Scotland and across the UK. There are some very clear differences between the groups but the key is not to judge a symbol group on just one or two factors like delivery charges, promotional pricing or claimed availability levels. Try to judge each group in the round, and try to establish what each group could bring to your specific store with your particular customer base.

Busy year

It has been another busy year for the symbol groups. Recruitment activity is as aggressive as it’s ever been, and more and more groups are targeting Scotland.

If you are looking to change group, you’ll have a long line of suitors at your door but be prepared for some tough conversations, even from groups desperate to grow in Scotland.

In recent years all of the main groups have become more selective about who they work with. They are looking for retailers to play a very active role in the partnership – whether that means running bigger promotional cycles, investing in store upgrades or refits, higher levels of range compliance or any number of other commitments that your new group will expect you to honour if you want their full support.

That makes commercial sense for them, and it makes common sense too. Why would they want to commit resources to a store that they don’t believe is keeping up its end of the bargain? At the end of the day, the groups rely entirely on stores as the public face of the business, so wanting to drive standards up is something that all parties should welcome.

In return for the enormous support that symbol groups can offer local retailers, they will be looking for commitment and drive from their retail partners. There are very few quick wins in this game and only by forging a strong, positive partnership with your symbol group can you maximise your returns over the longer term.

So have a look through the guide and start lining your ducks up – and, of course, never forget the old adage: it takes two to tango.


Premier store

Premier is the UK’s largest symbol group with over 4,350 stores across the UK, with over 500 of these in Scotland making it the biggest symbol operator in Scotland. Backed by Booker, the UK’s leading food & drink wholesaler, Scottish Premier retailers benefit from group exclusives with delivery at cash and carry prices and the convenience to top up at any of our 23 branches in Scotland to maximise availability.

Premier retailers benefit from a fantastic promotional programme covering all categories which is backed up by a comprehensive EDLP program. The Premier Program is designed to drive footfall and increase cash profit with our mega deals giving POR of over 15% and most of our core deals offering at least 25% POR. Our dedicated Scottish promotions each period also offer a real point of difference from the competition.

Premier is committed to helping Scottish retailers reduce costs and supporting both retailers & shoppers alike.

Key incentives include:

  • Reducing energy consumption with efficient LED lighting, Beer Caves, walk-in Soft Drinks area and refrigeration units.
  • Extending our spend and save scheme to include vape products, earning retailers up to 5% rebate.
  • Linking up with Healthy Scotland to support communities and children across Scotland.
  • Food donations points in store via Fareshare.

Scottish retailers have access to over 600 own-brand products through Jack’s and the Euro shopper brands. Euro Shopper is our entry level value range and Jack’s is part of the Tesco family and mid-tier. Both exclusive ranges come in PMPs and offer a minimum of 30% POR (excluding some products & chilled lines).

Premier’s store development teams will design and implement our latest thinking in stores, including Soft Drinks walk-in refrigeration units, Beer Caves, Refresh Zones, £5 lunchtime ‘Mega Meal Deal’ and local Scottish Bakery line-ups, whilst ensuring stores are as energy efficient and sustainable as possible.

Some Scottish stores who have invested over £200k have seen this pay back within 12 months and Premier’s small store format model means that now any Scottish stores from 300sq ft+ can benefit from the Premier model.


Day Today winners at the Asian Trader awards

In the ever-evolving landscape of retail, finding the right symbol partner is paramount for local retailers seeking a fresh start in 2024. Among the choices, Day-Today stands tall as the fastest-growing and award-winning cash and carry retail chain in the UK. Founded in 2003 with a remarkable simultaneous opening of 30 stores, Day-Today has grown into a network of over 300 shops in Scotland, embodying a commitment to service and community.

At the heart of Day-Today’s success is a commitment to going the extra mile for customers. These stores take pride in servicing local communities, presenting a cash and carry ‘one-stop-shop’ concept for all essentials. The Day-Today group understands that first impressions matter, striving for excellence to ensure a lasting connection between customers and their local stores. Offering a fresh, modern, and professional convenience store service, Day-Today delivery the perfect package for your neighbourhood or high street.

Naeem Khaliq, Day-Today Head of Symbol at UWS emphasises the group support for retailers: “We’re seeking partners who share our commitment to quality, service and community. We’ve evolved to save more and sell more, offering not just better prices but strategies to boost footfall and offset costs. Our pricing and promotions aim to be competitive, benefiting both retailers and customers. Our strong supplier relationships bring trust, transparency, and exclusive deals. Join us – let’s strengthen the bond between Day-Today, suppliers, and retailers.”

Day-Today is not just a symbol group; it’s a catalyst for success in the world of retail. The accolades amassed by Day-Today stores in 2023 are a testament to their dedication and success. Awards such as: Spirit of the Community for Day-Today Bourtreehill at the Asian Trader Awards, Symbol Store of the Year for Day-Today Bankton at the Scottish Grocer Awards. Day-Today Drylaw earned the title of Vaping Retailer of the Year, and several other stores received prestigious recognitions in various categories.

In the world of retail, the right symbol partner can make all the difference. Day-Today goes beyond the conventional symbol group experience. Joining us is not just a strategic business move; it’s an immersive journey into a supportive community. The phenomenal growth, community-focused approach, and industry accolades position Day-Today as a top choice for local retailers aiming for success. As the SLR Symbol Group, Fascia & Franchise Guide unfolds, consider the unmatched benefits of joining the Day-Today symbol group—a partnership that goes beyond convenience, embracing community spirit and retail excellence. Explore your options wisely, and let Day-Today be the cornerstone of your success story in the coming year.

Spar Scotland

Spar Scotland store

Continued investment and an efficient business model ensures SPAR Scotland delivers success.

We hold a deep sense of pride in being an independent family-run business. The SPAR brand is a strong convenience brand and, as a leading symbol group, we are in a great position to support our mix of independent forecourt and convenience retailers.

We continue to raise the convenience bar in Scotland and have seen high performing retailers such as the David Sands Group joining SPAR in recent times, testimony to the huge strides forward we have made in the last few years.

All stores in the David Sands Group are now fully onboarded with SPAR Scotland and are enjoying the first-class support and package that only SPAR Scotland can offer.

More recently, highly respected Bellshill retailer Daniall Nadeem has joined SPAR Scotland, the latest top-quality retailer among many to join SPAR in the last year.

It is no surprise then that SPAR Scotland was once again named Symbol Group of the Year at the SLR Awards in September.

We remain fully committed to providing our SPAR retailers with first class support and further develop independent retailer convenience and forecourt businesses all over the country:

  • Our dedicated team of six Business Development Managers (BDMs) cover all of Scotland.
  • We provide up to three multi-temp deliveries per week, with no delivery charges.
  • Joint business reviews are available with a dedicated BDM.
  • We offer a start-to-finish recruitment support package, with refit assistance, store design and merchandising support at no cost.
  • Store layouts are based on a demographic survey of the area with a tailored range to match.
  • SPAR retailers get a range of local and national promotions supported with TV advertising and various sponsorships.
  • SPAR retailers have access to our 900 exclusive award-winning SPAR own-label range of products.
  • We work in partnership with Scottish suppliers – over 50% of the products on Scottish SPAR store shelves come from Scotland, which means great availability.
  • Stores have access to a full fresh offer, with BDM guidance and merchandising support.
  • Our depot in Dundee is fully supported with a great team who are there for SPAR retailers.

Join SPAR Scotland today – we are your symbol of choice!

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This publication contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under the age of 18 years old.

This website contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under 18 years of age.

This website contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under 18 years of age.

This publication contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under the age of 18 years old.