Lure of symbol groups grows in market turmoil

Family Shopper retailer

The massive wave of recent industry consolidation no doubt leaves many retailers considering their options going forward in a market that’s set to become more competitive than ever – particularly for unaffiliated retailers lacking the weight of a big brand behind them.

The face of the local retailing industry in Scotland has changed almost beyond recognition in the last year with the likes of Tesco-Booker and the Co-op gaining an ever-stronger grip on the convenience sector. The collapse of Palmer and Harvey has also helped trigger a fresh wave of jostling for position with wholesalers across the UK battling to take advantage of P&H’s demise.

Bigger groups mean bigger buying power at the end of the day and the gap between the haves and the have-nots is set to increase to new levels. The retailers left most exposed as a result are unaffiliated independents who will find it harder and harder to provide a competitive offer without the might of a major symbol or fascia behind them.

For many independent local retailers in Scotland these days, then, the choice is less whether to join a fascia group or franchise and more about which one to join. And even for those currently with a symbol group, the recent spate of acquisitions and mergers has unquestionably left some retailers wondering whether it’s time for a change.

The continually rising minimum wage, huge increases in rates and ballooning compliance costs across the board mean that for many the only option is to gain the support that comes from being part of a buying group of some shape or form.

The stats bear this argument out: according to the 2016 Local Shop Report, the UK’s 15,100 symbol group stores generated £14.2bn in sales in 2016. The 19,100 non-affiliated independent convenience stores managed less than half of this figure, generating £6.3bn in sales over the same period.

Symbol groups have grown their share of the convenience-store market from 22% in 2002 to almost 40% in 2012. According to IGD data, this could rise to 50% by 2020.

Average annual investment per store type
  • Independents –  £7,632
  • Symbol Groups – £10,716

Whether you are considering joining one of these groups for the first time, or are thinking about 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 has its own particular strengths, but one thing that they all offer is 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 the 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 your convenience store, from exclusive discounts and buying power to staff training, running a social media page and availability of new technologies.

Top reasons for joining a symbol group
  • Wide range of products
  • Promotional activity
  • Regular communication
  • Marketing in trade press
  • Recognised brand above the door
  • IT and HR support
  • Dedicated trade website
  • Buying Power

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 assist 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 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.

Things to consider when choosing a symbol group
  • Are there any initial costs?
  • What ongoing fees are there?
  • Are there delivery charges?
  • Is there a minimum spend?
  • Is there a minimum percentage of buying through them?
  • Is there a minimum length contract?
  • Will I have to purchase any new equipment, such as EPoS?
  • Do they allocate stock and are certain lines sent out automatically each month?
  • How frequent are the deliveries?
  • How quick are the lead times for deliveries?
  • What are their wholesale prices like compared to your existing suppliers?
  • How extensive is the product range?
  • Do they provide development support and in what form?
  • Do they provide a chilled & frozen range?
  • Do they offer advertising support – either nationally or locally?
  • What kind of consumer offers do they run?
  • How will they help me to stand out against the competition in the area?
  • Is there an own label offer?
  • Do they have a loyalty scheme?
  • Will they invest in my store and in what way?
Lifestyle Express

Lifestyle Express: supporting you to run your business your wayLifestyle Express fascia

Whether you’re competing against other independent retailers, symbol stores, the supermarkets or the discounters, it’s vital that you stand out from the competition. At Lifestyle Express we understand this, and this is why we provide our retailers with the very best support and industry expertise  benefits of a national symbol group, while you maintain your independence and run your business your way.

At Lifestyle Express we offer retailers a comprehensive, award-winning retailer package with a proven track record, including bespoke store planning, industry-leading planograms and ongoing advice on range and store merchandising. Our popular, great-value own brand ranges offer excellent margins to retailers as well as offering a strong point of difference. We also offer a range of fantastic money-saving deals on store services, but with no membership fees or hidden costs. And there’s no minimum store size or minimum turnover required, just the potential to grow.

Lifestyle Express fast facts
  • Average store size: 800 square feet
  • Average store turnover: £12,000 per week
  • Available fascias: Lifestyle Express, Lifestyle Extra, Lifestyle Value
  • Number of UK stores: 970 including Scottish stores
  • Cost of joining: there is no cost to join or membership fee
  • Minimum store size/turnover: there is no minimum requirement to join Lifestyle Express.

Best of all, we have the right store format to suit your needs. Whether you opt for Lifestyle Express, Lifestyle Extra or Lifestyle Value, you can be sure that you’ll have the perfect format to best reflect your trading location. Our premium grey fascia runs alongside our traditional blue and green, all providing instant kerb appeal.

With Lifestyle Express you can benefit from:

  • On average, independent retailers achieve a 30% increase in retail sales after joining Lifestyle Express. We’ve carried out extensive research and identified a comprehensive range of bestselling product and if you stock these, you won’t fail to see a surge in sales.
  • We have a team of Core Range Advisors who work with retailers to identify opportunities to boost your sales and profit. By working with our advisors, you’ll know you have a fantastic mix of key products at different price points to suit all your customers’ needs. Retailers also have access to a Retail Development Manager who will provide expert advice on how to successfully grow your business.
  • Lifestyle Express is the only symbol group to reward retailing excellence. We run regular incentives for our retailers, all with the opportunity to earn Cash Back, just for stocking the bestselling products, displaying POS and adopting best retail practice. For retailers, it’s a win-win situation.
How to join
To join Lifestyle Express and get your business moving in the right direction, it couldn’t be easier:

  • Either visit your local Landmark Wholesale member depot and ask to speak to someone about joining Lifestyle Express and they’ll provide you with all you need to know.
  • Or call John Farrell on 07852 248120 or email
  • Or visit our website at where you’ll find everything you need to know. Fill in an enquiry form and someone will be in touch shortly.
Premier and Family Shopper

Join the biggest and the best symbol group in the UKPremier store

Premier and Family Shopper are operated by Booker Group, the UK’s leading food & drink wholesaler, who have over 200 Booker and Makro branches throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Premier is the UK’s number one symbol group with over 3,300 stores nationwide.  The group is committed to delivering more profits for retailers and a better shopping experience for consumers.  Premier has delivered double digit growth for thirteen consecutive years.

Premier has advertised on TV for the past two years.  This is a commitment to advertise Premier everyday which means over 200 million views of the advert nationally.  The TV advert will include Premier’s famous Mega Deal promotions which have increased to four each promotional period.  As well as this, retailers also benefit from a full promotional programme covering all categories of fresh, frozen, grocery and impulse to ensure great value for shoppers to drive footfall into stores.  This market leading promotional package, along with own-label and price-mark-packs, really drives the value message to help retailers grow their business.

Family Shopper is a discount format for independent retailers that brings together the strength of symbol retailing with the great value available in the discount channel.  It has been specifically developed to help independent retailers capture the growing sales and profits from the discount sector.  A key feature of Family Shopper is long term deals, which offer the consumer, fantastic value every day.

The unique discount format provides retailers with everything that shoppers would expect from a convenience store including chilled, alcohol, grocery and tobacco along with services such as Lotto and Paypoint.  This is then combined with the best of the discounters covering a fantastic range of £1 non-food items such as stationery, kitchen utensils and party accessories, with a broad seasonal offering and a frozen section.  Providing comprehensive disciplines, all Family Shopper stores offer a simplified range that removes duplication.  Also merchandising in full trays makes the format easy to operate while minimising back stock and easing cash flow.

Both Premier and Family Shopper retailers can take advantage of delivery at cash & carry prices, ordering on line and having the ease and convenience of shopping at branches.  This helps to maintain the exceptional availability which in turn offers better customer service.  Both brands do not operate any membership or joining fees and installs the fascia and imagery free of charge.  A wide range of additional services such as recycling, energy savings, free Epos and drop shipment are also available that have been specifically created to add value and keep costs low.


Make More and Save More with LondisLondis store

Londis is one of the UK’s leading groups  with over 1,900 members across the UK and is part of the Booker Group, the UK’s leading food and drink wholesaler. This unrivalled buying power means that our retailers benefit from the best promotion package in the sector with guaranteed minimum PORs of 20% on Core deals. We operate a zero cost model and work in partnership with our retailers to develop their business.

As well as the strength of a nationally recognised brand, Londis supports retailers with better pricing, award winning ranges, market leading promotions, store development advice and a superb supply chain service to help them compete and succeed in today’s rapidly expanding convenience market.

Londis is a flexible symbol partner that has a fully delivered service and support package to suit ambitious independent Scottish retailers offering true value with the right range of products at the right prices. We provide an industry leading fresh offer with over 1,250 lines, including fresh food-to-go, fresh produce ranges and meal-for-tonight solutions. Combine this with smart planning, local area knowledge, range optimisation and the symbol group’s expertise in merchandising, and Londis has the package to suit any store.

We are committed to helping our retailers Make More and Save More and continue to focus on delivering Better Choice, Price and Service for our customers and supporting them to grow their business.

The benefits of the Londis offer include:
  • Free Membership
  • Competitive cost of goods
  • Loyalty discounts of up to 4% on all purchases (Excludes Tobacco)
  • Award-winning Fresh range with over 1,250 lines.
  • Award-winning own brand ranges Euro Shopper, Happy Shopper and Farm Fresh
  • A best in class online web ordering system (Londis Webshop)
  • Market leading promotions every 4 weeks
  • Free Promotion Leaflets and FREE store point of sale support
  • Support from our dedicated Store Development and Retail Development teams
  • Tri Temperature fleet delivering all your ambient, fresh and frozen needs on one delivery
  • A best in class forecourt package with a dedicated forecourt team
  • Free Membership of the ACS
One Stop

Take advantage of One Stop’s scale and expertiseOne Stop store

One Stop’s mission is simple. To create and support thriving businesses at the heart of their communities.

Trading as a successful convenience business for over 20 years. We currently operate over 900 stores throughout England, Scotland and Wales. 20% of these are franchises, where we work in partnership with existing convenience retailers to help them reach their full potential.

Expertise you can count on

Our retail experience is the major aspect that makes us stand out from traditional symbol groups, which are predominantly wholesale-driven.  We base our Franchise model on the groups proposition we run successfully in our company estate, giving franchisee’s a proven model to base their business on.

Our years of experience means we’ve refined how we run our stores, and franchisees benefit straight away from our simple and efficient ways of working and our technology that makes this possible. If you speak to our franchisees they will tell you that our systems and processes save them valuable time, so that they’re able to focus on serving their customers, growing their profitable business, developing their teams and most importantly, spending more time with their family.

Our model is built around 4 major principles:

1.  Better sales, bigger profits

  • We deliver a competitive margin of between 18-24% dependent on a store’s mix.
  • Market leading meal deals – 3 for £3 lunchtime deal and 2 for £4 evening deal.
  • Continued price comparison to ensure our prices set stay competitive.
  • Brand new Own Label range featuring over 330 lines – better quality, bigger pack sizes, all at lower prices.

2.  Investing in a fresh new look for your store

  • We invest up to £50,000 – dependant on terms & conditions of contract – in a store’s look and feel through a refit package which includes a 2 lane EPOS and back office system, store design, fascia and fixtures and fittings – all project managed.

3. A simpler way of retailing

  • Our easy-to-use systems and proven ways of working take the hard work out of the day-to-day running of a store. So our franchisees have more time to focus on their customers and team.
  • Extensive range reset programme in which every category is reviewed once a year, with Chilled and Fresh having two due to its more seasonal nature. This ensures that our franchisees are getting the best return from the space they have, by stocking the right range at the right time, to meet their customers ever-changing needs.

4. A partnership built for success

  • Our Franchisees start off on the right foot with an experienced former store manager in-store, training the franchisee and their team for a whole week.
  • A dedicated Business Development Manager visits every 4 weeks, helping franchisees to grow their sales and margins, not sell boxes.
  • We’re fully committed to working with our franchisees to help their stores succeed. Which is why our BDMs and Support Team are on hand 7 days a weeks, providing continued support whenever it’s needed.

Continued Growth

As a franchisee you have the entire One Stop business behind you, working hard to improve every aspect of your store, and as we evolve our look & feel, offer, systems and support, you will continue to benefit directly. As we’re co-invested it’s our priority to ensure your sales and profit continue to grow year-on-year, and we do this through our proven model and unprecedented support.


You’ll sign up to a five-year agreement and commit to store standards and core range compliance. In return, you’ll see your business transformed! So, do you match our criteria?

  • Ideally an established retail operator in England, Wales or the central belt in Scotland
  • Existing C-store, CTN+ or Post Office wanting to migrate to convenience
  • Or have a property that lends itself to convenience (we will work with cold starts / developments)
  • Weekly turnover of at least £10,000 (excluding services)
  • Sales area of between 1,000 sq. ft. and 3,000 sq. ft. If less you must have the ability to expand
  • Have a current alcohol license or willing to obtain one
  • Prepared to operate the minimum trading hours of 7am to 9pm (Mon-Sun)

Membership fees: maximum £92 per week; option to pay for all upfront


Flex into the futureNisa store interior

Nisa is the partner of choice for independent retailers, working tirelessly over the last 40 years to ensure it provides all the tools needed to compete against the increasing competition in the convenience retail sector.

Retailers have the option to operate under a choice of symbol fascias; Nisa Local, Nisa Extra and dual branded whereby a member can maintain their local identity whilst also benefiting from the strength of the Nisa brand. Alternatively, retailers can opt to trade under their own independent fascia.

Nisa offers flexibility to retailers with their Store of the Future Evolution format which is a move towards a more modular development format, accommodating the individual demographic and shopping missions of every store.

A complete retail support package is offered, which comprises a strong retail focussed team, an enhanced category management system, a staff training facility and a comprehensive marketing package incorporating bespoke leaflets, point of sale material and national advertising.

Nisa’s flexible model provides its retailers with an unbeatable breadth of range comprising over 13,000 SKUs. This is supported by Nisa’s award-winning own label range, Heritage. This provides retailers with more than 800 great quality products at affordable prices and includes numerous award-winning lines such as the Heritage wine range launched in 2017. This commitment to value and quality also saw Nisa awarded Symbol Fresh Produce Retailer of the Year in 2016, affirming Nisa as the symbol group of choice for fresh produce. 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 has its own insight team which allows retailers to truly understand their customers and their market place enabling them to modify their offer to match the ‘local’ demographic. Retailers can then use this insight in conjunction with Nisa’s category management service to create bespoke planograms and layouts within their individual sites.

Through Nisa membership retailers can take advantage of the Retail Academy which provides a complete training solution to develop staff and help provide the best possible customer service.

Nisa provides retailers with a comprehensive marketing package incorporating bespoke leaflets, allowing members to personalise the leaflets to include local offers and events, and a personalised Nisa FM which provides a strong radio network for stores.

Retailers are offered a full support structure to assist them continue to push their business forward. This comprises a strong field team covering retail development managers and regional retail managers, in addition to fresh food development managers, who encourage retailers to make the most of this important category, and store development managers who help to further develop stores.

A quality EPOS solution, Epositive Evolution, is provided exclusively to Nisa members. With the ability to access promotions, stock lists and point of sale in a simple, touch-screen system it is a complete business management tool which can revolutionise the daily activity of retailers.

And Nisa knows community involvement is key, and as such its retailers can support local good causes through Nisa’s Making a Difference Locally charity, which has donated over £7m to UK communities since its launch in 2008.

The process to join the Nisa group is made as stress free as possible through the member website and the support retailers receive from the skilled in-house staff involved in the joining process.

Complete the form on Nisa’s website to join or contact our development team on 0800 542 7490.