As the cost of doing business seems to relentlessly rise for independent retailers, the case for joining a symbol or fascia group has arguably never been stronger.
Is joining a symbol group going to benefit you? According to the 2016 Local Shop Report, in the UK, the 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. The proof is in the profit.
With a range of pressures from rates rises and increasing minimum wage to decreasing margins and ever more fierce competition, being under the umbrella of a nationally-recognised symbol brand and gaining access to the support infrastructure that symbol groups bring has never been a more attractive package for retailers looking for something to drive their business up a gear or two.
Whether considering joining one of these groups for the first time, or are considering the possibility of moving from one group to another, this guide will provide retailers with the key data they need to make a fully informed decision as to which fascia is right for them.
There are a number of easily recognisable symbol groups to choose from, including the likes of Premier, Nisa, Londis, Costcutter, Family Shopper and Spar. Each brand comes with its unique offers and benefits. It is a question of choosing one which meets your needs. Recent years have seen the diversification of the sector, with more options for retailers of varied sizes and demographics. Whether you are looking for a more premium offering such as My Costcutter, to Booker’s family Shopper which blurs the lines between c-store, discounter and pound shop, the choice is there.
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. But there is no doubt it can pay huge dividends.
How to decide which symbol group is right for your business will ultimately depend on your shoppers and what products and deals they want your store 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 in every aspect of running a 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 needed to run a successful business, from promotional to posters and displays, along with the merchandising system and product knowledge to help with that make your business flourish.
Serviecs offered by groups will involve sending over several reps and provide supplier contacts who are qualified to offer an in-depth analysis of what kinds of products you should be stocking, where in your store you should be stock them and how much profit you could and should stand to be making.
The support and advice that is given regarding store development should go some was to soothe shop owners who are nervous of change. Some groups may introduce their own recommended shopfitter to assist with project planning and store layout to make the process as efficient and as stress free as possible. 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.
Ultimately, retailers should ask themselves whether remaining unaffiliated is detrimental to their potential as a business in the long run, in light of increased competiton and pressure from supermarket chains and symbol groups themselves growing exponentially into the local retailing market place. Whatever level you decide to go in at, it is best to do your research before determining which symbol group is right for you and ask all the important questions. This guide should help answer any basic queries and provide a starting block to joining a symbol group.