The average independent retailer is receiving under half as many regular supplier rep visits as they received in 2015 according to a survey conducted by RN.

More than two-thirds of retailers have seen decreases of 50% or more. 

Unaffiliated retailers saw some of the biggest declines, with rep visits falling by 45% – nine percentage points higher than symbol stores. 

Retailers suggested this is down to reps focusing on store types that typically have higher sales volumes. Sarj Patel, of Pasture Lane Stores in Loughborough, said: “I’m seeing fewer reps. Their time and investment has been reduced and I feel they are focusing their attention on the multiples.”

When asked which companies no longer visited stores, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) was the most frequently mentioned at 66%, followed by Mars Wrigley (38%), Mondelez International (38%), Nestlé (38%), Heineken (19%) and Red Bull (19%).

On what suppliers visited at least four times per year, the most frequently mentioned were Imperial Tobacco (42%), JTI (42%), Mondelez (42%), CCEP (29%), Mars Wrigley (29%) and Nestlé (29%).

Rural retailers suffered higher than average decreases of rep support at 47%, compared with a 37% decline at urban shops. Visits halved at Trudy Davies’ store in Llanidloes. She told RN: “My perception is that reps are covering larger geographical areas. This means they aren’t visiting stores so frequently, particularly in rural areas.”

Several respondents, including Raaj Chandarana from Tara’s Londis, said retailers were looking elsewhere for information on the latest trends and product launches. 

The most frequently mentioned alternatives were trade magazines and newspapers (50%), websites (25%), wholesalers (12.5%) and setting up out-of-store meetings with suppliers (12.5%).

CCEP convenience & wholesale sales director Gary Black responded that the independent channel is “extremely important” and added that they have the largest FMCG rep team in the UK. He also reported it had doubled the number of field sales visits in 2018 and further field sales investments are planned for 2019.

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