From the raft of new tobacco legislation to the rise and rise of fresh and chilled produce, 2016 has been a year of major change for independent retailers of all kinds.

With the arrival of each challenge and opportunity, the industry has reacted to provide help to the trade with products that meet a new niche, technology that puts you in control of your business or support that keeps you and your team up to date.

The RN Retailer Choice Awards are your opportunity to recognise the best of this work. Our editorial team has come together to create a list of nominees across 12 categories, from the footfall drivers that have brought shoppers into your stores to the category innovations that have made them spend their money with you.

Now, it’s over to you. Readers have one week from today to log on to betterretailing.com and make your decisions over which nominees claim the prize in each category. Find out your winners only in RN’s 16 December issue. 

REMEMBER: Voting closes 8 December, and only one vote per IP Address. Multiple submissions will not be counted.

1. Symbol or franchise of the Year

Whether it’s driving success or embarking on new ventures to keep retailers on top of the convenience game, suppliers and symbol groups have presented both incredible recoveries and top notch new initiatives this year.

This year, Nisa made the “biggest swing in profit in the company’s history” as presented in its end-of-financial year figures. The report revealed adjusted earnings of £7.2m, compared to losses of £2.9m the previous year. The company attributed the turnaround to a disciplined approach which has made £3.1m available to members. This successful 180-degree turn has been coupled with its supply contract, where it will supply the 298 Co-op stores acquired by McColl’s Retail Group.

Did you know? Clear guidelines to retailers and a new mystery shopper initiative resulted in a 17% jump in Nisa’s customer feedback score.

Focusing much more heavily on grocery as well as launching a massive recruitment drive this year, Conviviality announced retailers signing up to its Bargain Booze franchise would receive at least £20,000 to invest in their business. It also promised access to more than 4,000 grocery lines and more than 2,500 chilled lines, delivered up to five times a week, for new starters under its Bargain Booze and Bargain Booze Select Convenience fascias.

Did you know? Conviviality Retail posted a 137% increase in annual sales to £864.5m in a “transformational year” this year. The company now has a total of 716 stores.

One Stop has taken  steps to improve its fresh offering, both in terms of what it can offer its them and the range of meal deals available to franchisees. This year it has revamped its fresh and chilled range with new products, it has delivered a £3 lunchtime meal deal and, earlier in the year, a two for £10 eve-ning deal. One Stop has also launched an initiative in which funds raised through the 5p carrier bag charge are now donated to local community groups.

Did you know? One Stop has more than 850 shops open seven  days a week, employing more than 10,000. It increased its single pack lines available to its franchisees to 280.

Following a takeover by Booker in May, Budgens has undergone a drastic turnaround and retailers have benefited from improved cash margins and fewer restrictions. New systems and product ranges have been introduced. Following Booker’s acquisition of Musgrave last year, Booker now claims it is “simpler to do business with” as part of its recruitment drive. Budgens retailers are saving on average £50,000 a year in wastage due to a “better meat proposition”.

Did you know? Prior to the takeover Musgrave had lost £20m. But following Booker’s acquisition, retailer Guy Warner reported a margin increase of 4%.

A trial in which Premier has used the Londis and Budgens supply chain to build on its fresh and chilled offering has de-livered a 50% sales uplift, according to Booker Group managing director Steve Fox, with one Premier store reporting a 99% in-crease. Premier’s expansion drive boosts sales and footfall for its retailers and the group has approached this scheme with a five to 10-year outlook. Premier retailers have hailed better fresh ranges as the main benefit of the merger.

Did you know? In August Premier announced its total UK store numbers had grown to more than 3,300. It also recruited 330 new members in the last financial year.

Thank you for casting your vote! Voting is now closed. Stay tuned for the winners announcement in the 16 December issue of RN.

2. Supplier salesforce of the year

We often hear about suppliers cutting back their rep teams, but here are five companies who have been active in helping retailers make their stores more profitable via their field teams. Which one has impressed you most?

The publisher’s reps have been introducing retailers to a number of initiatives to drive sales and customer loyalty, and it’s a testament to them that a number of these are ahead of target. News UK has signed up 10,000 stores to its MyPerfectShop initiative, 750 stores have been fitted with BigDL beacons, and more than 3,500 retailers were signed up to its newsretail.co.uk trade website in its first four months. Driving cross-category and total store sales has also been a focus.

Did you know? The company’s activity this year helped it become the first newspaper publisher to scoop the gold award at the Field Marketing Awards.

The arrival of standardised packaging and EUTPD II restrictions this year meant that, from May, branded cigarettes, 10-packs and small-format rolling tobacco could no longer be produced for the UK market. With retailers granted a 12-month sell-through period, tobacco reps have been out in full force to ensure retailers are ready for the May 2017 deadline. RN saw first-hand the work being done by BAT’s sales reps to ensure retailers are up-to-date on the changes.

Did you know? BAT is looking to secure a deal to get it back into the US market, which would, if approved, make it the biggest listed tobacco company in terms of sales.

Earlier this year JTI told RN it had trained its reps to be store experts to protect retailers as plain packaging legislation begins to impact their businesses. Andy Stevens, JTI’s head of sales, said this was to make sure as “legislation becomes more layered, reps understand the workings of the whole shop”. Its reps have also been helping retailers with stock rotation to improve rate of sale, ensuring “those brands that get stuck in the cupboard find their way on to shelves”.

Did you know? The JTI Advance App provides up-to-the-minute guidance on legislation between rep visits. It also features a margin calculator and training tips.

Since employing its first field sales force for 25 years in 2014, the company’s reps have been helping retailers prepare for the wave of legislation, drive sales and fight the illicit trade. Earlier this year retailers told RN they saw a massive rise in sales after the company paid retailers £1 for every extra packet of Chesterfields sold above a defined “base rate”. Earlier this year Philip Morris launched a nationwide educational programme for independent retailers in a bid to stamp out illicit tobacco.

Did you know? Philip Morris reps visited 6,500 retailers to give stickers, leaflets and posters that assure customers all their tob-acco stock is legal as part of its Ex-It programme.

Regional business manager James Hall reiterated the company’s commitment to the independent trade earlier this year when he told retailers “we’re not going to leave independent retailers to hang out to dry”. It came as he gave advice on plain packaging and EUTPD II legislation. Last month, RN also reported the company is looking at three-letter abbreviation and colour coding on gantries to help retailers prevent mis-sales with the disappearance of branding.

Didi you know? Imperial is the only manufacturer to have seen positive growth since plain packaging legislation was intro-duced in Australia, according to Mr Hall.   

Thank you for casting your vote! Voting is now closed. Stay tuned for the winners announcement in the 16 December issue of RN.

3. Supplier digital innovation of the year

Two thirds of supply chain businesses are increasing their use of technology, while industry leaders are urging more businesses to engage with digital tools. But which one has been getting you logging on?

Taking a new approach to combating illicit tobacco, Imperial launched a digital campaign to fight the black market and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. An anti-illicit tobacco website and Twitter feed form part of its Suspect it? Report it! campaign. They provide access to the tools needed to raise awareness which include posters, videos and infographics, all available to download. Its aim is for the website to become a digital focal point for the anti-illicit tobacco fight.

Did you know? According to HMRC estimates, while overall cigarette consumption is falling, illicit tobacco has hit a five-year high, with five billion sticks consumed in 2015-16.

Launched as a hub to help retailers drive newspaper sales, Newsretail.co.uk went live in July and signed up an initial 1,000 retailers in its first nine days. Available in a website format and a smartphone app, it provides newspaper sales data, direct communication with reps, real examples of My Perfect Shop case studies, distribution updates and a help centre. The company says: “This online hub is where you can explore many features created to help increase your newspaper sales.”

Did you know? News UK is aiming for a total of 10,000 retailers to be signed up to the Newsretail.co.uk site by next June, meaning more retailers than ever will be kept up to date.

In a move to address the complex changes in legis- lation heading for tobacco in May next year, the JTI Advance app was unveiled in June. It is designed to create shopping lists using a barcode scanner, access product and pricing information and view training tips, as well as product and industry news, including information on EUTPD II – offering information at retailers’ fingertips. As branded packs and small formats have begun to run out, the app has alerted users.

Did you know? From May next year, retailers will no longer be able to sell pricemarked packs or 10-packs and will only be able to stock plain-packaged tobacco products.

The recently-launched PayPoint One terminal has promised to lead the way in terms of payment service providers, working in sync with today’s rapidly expanding online technology. The new terminal amalgamates beacons, smart-phone apps, promotions, loyalty schemes and parcels into one tidy bundle which will also see the integration of contactless payments, Apple Pay and Android. The idea is to bring suppliers and retailers on board to provide a seamless, modern payment service.

Did you know? By 2021, card payments will account for more than 50% of all payments. More than half of people say technology improves their shopping experience.

An app for Premier shoppers is undergoing trials with the aim of providing both a click and collect and a delivery service. The app will also offer exclusive deals, drive footfall and add an edge to convenience store capabilities. “It’s early days, but we’ve already seen extra sales and people who didn’t know the store existed us- ing the app,” says Mandeep Singh of Premier Singh’s in Sheffield. Along with the acquisition of Londis and Budgens, it means more Britons are coming into contact with Booker than ever.

Did you know? Trialling the new technology, Mandeep has seen average basket spend triple, as well as being able to offer delivery within 15 minutes of orders being placed.

Thank you for casting your vote! Voting is now closed. Stay tuned for the winners announcement in the 16 December issue of RN.

4. Product launch of the year

Successfully launching products is a difficult art to master, particularly when there are so many channels available with which to do it. Here are some that got it right – but which new product gets your vote?

In April, JTI widened its presence in the e-cigarette market by launching its first UK tank vaping product, Logic Pro. Fitted with a ‘no spill, no fuss’ device that enables it to be marketed as a less messy option, the stainless steel Logic Pro includes an integrated coil system and a ‘five click lock’ to prevent accidental activation. The product, which has long-life battery that can be charged in under three hours, is available in tobacco, cherry, menthol and vanilla flavours.

Did you know? 85% of the UK’s estimated two million vapers use tank fuelled products, a market that had grown 161% in the year leading up to Logic Pro’s launch.

A new version of KitKat’s ever-popular crispy wafer Chunky chocolate bars launched in August, with a cookie dough variant that formed part of the manufacturer’s bid to excite the singles confectionery category. With an RRP of 60p, it was the latest in a series of popular limited edition flavours of the bar to be launched in the UK. The launch was supported by a £1m media campaign that focused on social media and outdoor posters.

Did you know? Sales of KitKat Chunky Cookie Dough were so strong that Nestlé had to increase its production in order to keep up with demand, with many retailers having sold out.

Diageo strengthened Guinness’s craft beer range, The Brewers Project, in April, as part of its aim to highlight the ‘quality and craftsman- ship’ of its portfolio. Hop House 13, the fourth variant to be released, joined Guinness Dublin Porter, Guinness West Indies Porter and Guinness Golden Ale. The latest lager was marketed as an accessible option for consumers looking to explore the growing craft beer industry.

Did you know? Guinness launched its golden amber Hop House 13 lager in Ireland in February 2015 and it now accounts for 2.8% of all lager sales in the country.

The range of indulgent sharing bars available to shoppers was given a boost with the launch of Cadbury’s Milk Medley brand in February. The range consists of two 93g Dairy Milk chocolate tablets each containing a soft chocolate centre and sweet topping, including caramelised hazelnuts and raspberry pieces. Targeted at 25 to 44-year-old women, both products have an RRP of £1.49 and Mondelez introduced £1 pricemarks when they came to market.

Did you know? The tablet’s launch was supported by a £3m marketing campaign
in 2016 that included TV, sampling, outdoor, digital, PR and in-store activity.

Further strengthening its popular Galaxy Duet range, Mars Chocolate has added a popcorn variety. The Toffee & Popcorn bar has two fingers, one filled with smooth toffee sauce and the other salted toffee popcorn pieces. Mars’ latest bar, which arrived in stores in February, retails at 60p and follows on from 2015’s double launch of Cookies & Cream and Caramel & Shortcake. Mars’ range of PoS to promote it in store included a front-of-store display.

Did you know? Mars invested in a £600k campaign to support this launch. It included TV ads that featured singers Chanele McGuinness and Bxnjamin, who sang a version of Moon River.

Thank you for casting your vote! Voting is now closed. Stay tuned for the winners announcement in the 16 December issue of RN.

5. Growth category of the year

How do you spot a fad from the next big sales opportunity for your store? RN has identified five categories that you have told us are performing well this year. But which is best?

Your customers are working harder and not eating at traditional times, and so are snacking more. They are also looking for healthier snacks, however, and the result is an explosion in the protein snacks category, which Ben McKechnie from healthy wholesaler Epicurium calls “incredible”. Exciting brands like Bounce, Pip & Nut and Protein Pantry, and new formats from Mars and Nature Valley, mean protein bars needn’t look like they belong in a gym or health food shop, either.

Did you know? The protein bar category grew in value by 57% in 2016 to be worth £22m a year, according to Mars general manager Michelle Frost making it a must-stock.

Ever-present for three years, the growth of e-cigarettes is showing no sign of slowing, with the value of the market up 48% since 2014. Tobacco manufacturers have shown their ambition, with JTI bringing Pro Logic to the UK in April and Philip Morris rolling out its IQOS heat-not-burn technology to Italy and Japan. Tank e-cigarettes are driving growth with 44% of the market, with menthol (37%), fruit (30%) and tobacco (29%) the most popular flavours.

Did you know? RN research found retailers stocking two brands achieve weekly sales of £21.11, while those with four brands more than double category turnover at £44.46 a week.

If 2016 was all about craft beer, the next big alcohol trend to watch out for is craft spirits. The focus on premium, non-mass produced, often local lines, is advanced in beer but developing in soft drinks and spirits. Brands like Sipsmith’s Gin and Bulleit Bourbon are already widely stocked, and Swansea retailers Marc and Rhonda Winchester used two Welsh whiskies to create a point of difference at their new Bmorelocal store when they opened earlier this year.

Did you know? Craft spirits currently have a 2.2% market share in the United States, while craft beer has a 12% share of category sales showing the category’s potential.

Back in August, RN readers told us they had no fear about the impact of the impending sugar tax, with customers switching to healthier drinks keeping sales strong. Retailers Susan Connolly, Adam Hogwood and Chaz Chahal all said they’d already seen a big change in customer behaviour as they switch to lower-sugar options. Lcozade Zero and Coca-Cola Cherry with Zero Sugar joined the likes of Monster Ultra, Tango Sugar Free and Red Bull Sugar Free in the chiller this year.

Did you know? Tesco announced it is cutting the amount of sugar in 251 own brand soft drinks to below the 5g per 100ml at which the sugar tax comes in.

“Gluten free is no longer about health, it’s a lifestyle choice.” That was the view of Budgens of Islington retailer Paul Gardner at the Local Shop Summit in October. Paul takes advantage by working with specialist brands like Yummy Tummy Co and Mash Direct, whose high quality ready meals meet the needs of his coeliac customers. Plenty of big brands are following suit too, with gluten-free ver- sions of everything from fish fingers and lager to cornflakes and porridge.

Did you know? Cambridge retailer Abdul Arah sells £4,000 worth of gluten-free ready meals every week. He started stocking them after his mother was diagnosed with coeliac disease.

Thank you for casting your vote! Voting is now closed. Stay tuned for the winners announcement in the 16 December issue of RN.

6. Advertising campaign of the year

Manufacturers and suppliers are always seeking better ways to market their products and boost their reputation. Great promotions equal great sales – but just who is the marketing king?

This summer, Pringles capitalised on its World Cup 2014 campaign success (it grew large sharing crisps sales 25%) with another football-related campaign. Tying-in with the UEFA European Championships, Kellogg’s hit the back of the net by offering consumers a ‘Footbowl’ for serving at match-time, and renaming packs ‘Pringoooals’. If only England had managed a few more ‘goooals’ too. Kellogg’s also unveiled ‘The Best Films are in the Can’ campaign, offering free movies.

Did you know? Pringles creator Alexander Liepa picked the name Pringles out of a Cincinatti telephone book, with the address Pringle Drive, Ohio, being the one.

This year, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey campaign has certainly created a buzz among retailers. Offering pricemarked bottles for independents in a variety of sizes, the whiskey brand has proven that it still adapts to stay on-trend, as it has done for over 150 years. Retailer recommendations in the advertisements confirm that stocking the new honey flavour next to other premiums – such as Old No.7 – can complement any convenience store’s range. Will it be this year’s winner?

Did you know? Jack Daniel’s is the second best-selling whiskey to buy near airports, with a whopping 889,000 cases sold every year to travellers alone.

Adorned by a number of recent awards, this year’s Bargain Booze campaign has drawn independent retailers from across the UK to sign up to the franchise. Using the power of three, the advertisements ask independent retailers if they want to be famous and a have a £20,000 investment. Obviously a popular incentive, but the promotion is strengthened by additional promises, including increased turnover and 2,500 Heritage-branded chilled lines from Nisa.

Did you know? Bargain Booze started off in 1981 as a small wine and spirits shop in Cheshire. Now, it’s the largest off-licence chain in the UK, with more than 600 stores.

Coca-Cola European Partner’s ‘Taste the Feel- ing’ new global advertising campaign is the soft drink giant’s first in seven years. Using emotional product communication, the message focuses on the sense that drinking Coca-Cola turns a simple pleasure into a special moment, this advert takes new branding into consideration with its tinted photograph, but affirms its appeal to contemporary consumers looking for healthier options with its Zero Sugar credentials.

Did you know? Coca-Cola worked with some of the biggest industry names such
as W.C. d’Arcy and Archie Lee to create the brand’s most memorable slogans.

This summer, Walkers and Heinz teamed up to launch a limited-edition selection of six, sandwich-flavoured crisps. The campaign uses an exciting incentive for consumers to win £10,000 every week plus unique sarnie prizes or free crisps, which also drives retailers online to find out how they could earn rewards for their store. The limited-edition campaign was also supported by television advertising and pop-up shops in an innovative attempt to attract UK customers.

Did you know? It is not coincidental that Walkers Crisps uses Gary Lineker in its adverts as the crisps are still made in Lineker’s home town of Leicester.

Thank you for casting your vote! Voting is now closed. Stay tuned for the winners announcement in the 16 December issue of RN.

7. Newsstand performer of the year

This year, two national newspapers have launched, adult colouring has remained an obsession and enduring toy brands have engaged a whole new generation of kids. But which newsstand title is your star performer?

It’s been hailed as the most successful print launch of the year. Arch- ant’s New European launched in early July, claiming it would give “dismayed” EU Referendum Remain voters a voice. The Independent initially dubbed it “the UK’s first ever pop-up newspaper”, but the New European succeeded where The New Day and 24 failed and is now a permanent title. It is now launch- ing a Bookazine called 2016 Year of Brexit, with a retail margin of 25% on its £6.99 cover price.

Did you know? The first issue of the New European is thought to have sold more than 40,000 copies. “We will continue to publish into the zeitgeist until it passes,” it told the Guardian.

2016 has been a strong year for the i, newly-acquired by Johnston Press. The title has achieved successive sales increases according to monthlyAudit Bureau of Circulation figures. Saturday editions showed the strongest results, up 8.8%, 14.4%, 14.1% and 16.7% in October, September, August and July, respectively. And despite a 10p price rise in September shaving 1% off retailer margins, sellers still earned an extra £1,203,446 on weekdays and £210,096 on Saturdays from the move.

Did you know? At launch in 2010, the Lebedevs said they would judge the i a success if its circulation topped 150,000. Its weekday circulation was 212,261 in October.

Star Wars was revealed as the standout children’s newsstand trend of 2016 when this summer’s national sales charts were released by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. Star Wars Lego leapt to second place in the children’s category and 48th place in the overall top 100, while Lego Nexo Knights and Lego Ninjago also put in sterling performances. The trend looks set to continue with Lego topping many Christmas lists and parents in need of stocking fillers and holiday entertainment.

Did you know? Retailers sold nearly 250,000 copies of the top four Lego magazines in August’s ABCs. Lego was named the world’s most powerful brand by Brand Finance last year.

After a year of storming the newsstand to buy colouring books, adults were showing no sign of losing their rediscovered appetite for childhood activities, so publishers hit on a new retro activity to drive further sales. The dot-to-dot craze for adults was born, and a raft of titles quickly launched. Ultimate Dot-to-Dot is testament to the popularity of this trend. Last month, it ranked third on the adult colouring charts, after Relax With Art and Colouring Heaven.

Did you know? Dot-to-dot puzzles are said to have the same benefits as yoga. Australia has taken adult relaxation one step further and launched play dough for grown-ups.

With origins back to 1785, The Times has earned its nomination here for its consistent sales through retail this year. Arguably the most stable quality newspaper, Audit Bureau of Circulations figures show the paper has posted circulation changes for its weekly edition of between just -1.6% and 1.9% in the past six months, for example, while other titles have folded or posted higher losses. Similarly strong, the Saturday edition’s performance ranged from -0.5% to 6.1% in the same period.

Did you know? Ten Times seven-day HND customers are worth £6,800 per year, and 10% of people who read The Times are aged between 15 and 24.

Thank you for casting your vote! Voting is now closed. Stay tuned for the winners announcement in the 16 December issue of RN.

8. Innovation of the year

By implementing new ideas, suppliers can breathe new life into products, attract new customers and increase opportunities for retailers – as the following five prove. But which one is the best?

British American Tobacco (BAT) launched a new filter for its Pall Mall range in May which it says gives smokers a firmer “in-hand feel” and improves filtration. The Taste Plus Filter – the first product of its kind for Pall Mall and a first-to-market innovation for the UK – was part of an upgrade undertaken by BAT that followed the launch of its Double Capsule in 2015. The manufacturer has promised to continue to innovate its portfolio despite the arrival of plain packaging in 2017.

Did you know? BAT was the first major manufacturer to bring a EUTPD II-ready 30g roll your own tobacco pouch to the market, a £10 pricemarked format of Cutters Choice.

 

Blu launched a retailer guide in November that aims to help store owners make sense of e-cig legislation and understand sales opportunities. Designed to help retailers fully comprehend the changes which will be introduced when EUTPD II legislation comes into force, the guides were created in response to feedback and questions from retailers. The comprehensive four-page guide includes keys stats, and dates and what a compliant device looks like.

Did you know? Around a third of all e-cigarette sales are carried out in traditional retail environments and the category is growing at around 20% year on year.

To feed millions of consumers’ demand for protein-enriched food, Warburtons launched a new range of bread products that includes a big portion of our daily protein requirements. Baked using wholemeal flour and pulses, the range includes four-packs of Protein Wholemeal Rolls, Protein Wholemeal Thins and Protein Wholemeal Soft Wraps, as well as a Protein Wholemeal 400g loaf, all of which have an RRP of £1.20.

Did you know? At £8.47 per average basket, Warburtons calculates bakery customers spend £2.08 more than typical convenience store shoppers.

In a bid to give itself the edge over the competition when EUTPD II and standardised packs regulation comes into force, Philip Morris has introduced resealable packs to its core range. Pro-Seal enables smokers to reseal their packs and keep them fresh by encasing them in foil wrap. This is designed to remove the need for foil to be torn off when smokers open a pack. The new system will be available in 20-packs of Marlboro Red, Gold and Silver Blue.

Did you know? The UK is the first market in the world in which Marlboro-brand owner Philip Morris has transitioned its core variants to this latest packaging design.

Pladis’ core McVitie’s products were relaunched in new formats for the on-the-go cake category in July, with six flavour combinations available in 12-pack cases. The slices were introduced to market in ‘2 for £1’ permanently pricemarked packs and are available in flavour combinations including Chocolate Hobnobs, Milk Chocolate Digestive and Digestive Caramel Millionaire – all of which now last longer, thanks to their longer shelf life.

Did you know? McVitie’s brand-owner Pladis identified the on-the-go category as a £102m opportunity. Its Better Biscuits, Better Business platform will help retailers capitalise.

Thank you for casting your vote! Voting is now closed. Stay tuned for the winners announcement in the 16 December issue of RN.

9. Footfall driver of the year

Rate of sale, margins – of the many ways to judge the value of a product or category, footfall is one many suppliers like to associate their products with. Which of the following footfall drivers works best for you?

There may be many companies jockeying to help retailers offer parcel delivery service but the Post Office’s modernisation project has seen many more retailers dedicate a counter and embrace the new Post Office system or transfer their business over to it. With banking, parcels, letter delivery and collection of pensions and benefits all rolled into the one-counter system, it is designed to provide footfall that can help boost retailers’ sales elsewhere in store.

Did you know? It is expected that 8,000 post offices will transfer to this new local-style service, with each branch able to offer extended convenience store opening hours.

It is a testament to the importance of tobacco as a footfall driver to most convenience stores that even a report by anti-smoking lobby group ASH couldn’t help but state the case. In Counter Arguments: how important is tobacco to small retailers? the organisation says more than one in five customers in convenience stores buys tobacco and, of them, 62% buy other items. Whether these figures are accurate or not – it makes a strong case for the importance of this core category.

Did you know? Eight in 10 cigarettes sold in the UK are in packs of less than 20 – all of these smaller formats will be illegal from May alongside branded packaging.

Much is made of the decline of the newstrade but newspapers are still worth a mighty £1.8bn in retail sales value to the trade and 2016 has seen publishers embrace new technology to improve retailers’ understanding of their shoppers, encourage extra sales and ultimately boost footfall. News UK’s tie-in with beacon technology firm Big DL allows retailers to send targeted promotions to customers helping boost sales of newspapers alongside confectionery, meal deals and much more.

Did you know? Three million more newspapers were sold in the aftermath of Britain’s decision to leave the EU in June, highlighting the continued important of events to copy sales.

In the summer Camelot admitted to RN that it had a number issues to fix as
a continuous stream of letters arrived in our offices to make complaints and highlight bad service. Yet, for all this the service is still valued by the vast majority of retailers – as it brings in customers to regularly take part in draws and buy scratch-cards. Indeed, according to data commissioned by RN, seven in 10 customers pick up additional items when they buy a scratch-card.

Did you know? When the National Lottery was set up in 1994 it needed an act of parliament to allow it to operate legally. It would be joined in 2011 by the Health Lottery.

Getting the most out of the morning trade has encouraged many retailers to install in-store coffee machines. From Costa Express machines to Tchibo, Jack’s Beans and Nescafé – there are a wealth of companies stores can work with to supply a modern machine. In October, former Shell forecourt boss Markus Hoff- man revealed to RN that many of the petrol giant’s convenience stores outsold the drinks sales of typical Starbucks and Costa stores, highlighting the opportunity available to the sector.

Did you know? Approximately 80% of coffee drinkers visit a coffee shop at least once a week, and 16% of visiting one every day – an impressive level of footfall driving.

Thank you for casting your vote! Voting is now closed. Stay tuned for the winners announcement in the 16 December issue of RN.

10. Merchandising initiative of the year

Every business wants to grow sales, so suppliers have invested in a tranche of merchandising initiatives this year to help you do so. But which ones have had the biggest impact on your sales?

You’d struggle to find a manufacturer whose top tip for sales isn’t to stock the bestsellers and display them well, but what effect does following this advice actually have? Wrigley’s Merchandising with the Masters project can pro- vide the answer. This year, Wrigley and retail mentor Gaz Bains worked with Joe Williams and Harjinder Dhasee to assess their gum displays and advise how to grow sales. The result? Sales growth of 202% and 159% over six weeks for Joe and Harj.

Did you know? Bottle packs of chewing gum are this year’s success story in this category, according to Wrigley, with sales up by 26% in the past year.

PepsiCo is one of a diminishing number of suppliers which still invests heavily in its field force and this year, to help independent retailers grow savoury snacks sales, it armed its reps with a brand new category guide. Designed to help retailers understand trends, perfect their ranges and improve the layout and position of displays, Walkers reps are twinning advice in the guide with stores’ individual sales data to help retailers plan the best range. Eye-catching PoS draws attention to it.

Did you know? Around 25% of shoppers buy savoury snacks on impulse, and spend just 20 seconds looking at the fixture – which is why it pays to get your merchandising right

Pladis – once known as United Biscuits – believes there is potential to in- crease biscuit sales by up to £88m in the next five years, and so launched this new bestsellers initiative to help independents take their share of it. Better Biscuits Best Sellers provides ranging and merchandising advice by store type and fixture size and isn’t afraid to include rival firms in its recommendations. The initiative links to the company’s wider Better Biscuits Better Business website.

Did you know? A recent Telegraph poll found shortbread, Viennese whirls and chocolate Hobnobs are among those considered to be the best biscuits in the world.

‘You need to view newspapers like croissants’, News UK said earlier this year – they’re fresh every day, customers are hungry for them every morning and prominent displays with related products will drive cross-category sales in the morning. Hence its launch of a display unit which allows full-page display of newspapers and display space for confectionery and snacks. Position it next to a coffee machine and/or a bakery display and you can drive basket spend with multi-category purchases.

Did you know? 44% of newspapers are sold before 11am, and when it comes to sales versus display space, they are one of your highest earners per square foot.

While the trade While the trade braces itself for the full onslaught of plain packaging and EUTPD II compliance, JTI shed a ray of light onto retailers’ gantries. It announced the launch of a new e-cigarette merchandising display, built into gantries, with space for JTI’s Logic brand, as well as competitor products. It comes as vaping sales continue to climb – retailers who trialled the unit reported several benefits, including sales of up to 20% plus the ability to showcase a wider range.

Did you know? EDFM data shows stores with six or more e-cig brands make an average £80.08 in sales per week, four brands generate £44.46 and two brands generate £21.11.

Thank you for casting your vote! Voting is now closed. Stay tuned for the winners announcement in the 16 December issue of RN.

11. Supplier of the year

Every business wants to grow sales, so suppliers have invested in a tranche of merchandising initiatives this year to help you do so. But which ones have had the biggest impact on your sales?

A raft of festive product launches, including Dairy Milk Snowballs, caps a bumper year for new products from Mondelez, which has also seen the launch of Trebor Mighties, Ghoost Eggs and Medley. In addition to adding new Ritz Crisp & Thin flavours and a 30g format, the manufacturer extended its 50p pricemarked Cadbury singles range and brought back its Tiffin tablet. Category advice, meanwhile, comes from its deliciousdisplay.co.uk trade website.

Did you know? Firefighter Patrick McBride beat 20,000 applicants to land the role of the Milk Tray man, which debuted in October as part of a £3m campaign.

Highlights from the year include signing up 3,500 retailers to newsretail.co.uk, converting 10,000 My Perfect Shops with merchandising material and fitting BigDL beacons in 750 stores. The Times is performing strongly on the newsstand. Meanwhile, 150 stores trialling dual news and breakfast displays have seen morning snack sales grow 449%. The publisher’s salesforce won a gold award at the Field Marketing and Brand Experience awards in October.

Did you know? Firefighter Patrick McBride beat 20,000 applicants to land the role of the Milk Tray man, which debuted in October as part of a £3m campaign.

Launching new bestsellers every year, Wrigley’s 2016 launches included the return of Doublemint, Extra hanging bags and in-car gum holder and Skittles and Starburst variants. Meanwhile, back for its third year, its Merchandising with the Masters initiative continues to help independent retailers improve their gum offer. Hook Norton retailer Joe Williams grew sales by £2,500, while Harj Dhasee from Mickleton added £4,500 to his gum sales by following Wrigley’s advice.

Did you know? Now in its 11th year, Wrigley was a founding partner of Newtrade’s Independent Achievers Academy, where it sponsors the merchandising category.

In a tough year for the soft drinks industry, in which then chancellor George Osborne put a sugar tax at the centre of his spring budget, Coca-Cola European Partners has led the fightback. As well as helping shape the debate around choice at industry events like Local Shop Summit, the company’s associate director for public affairs Jim Fox told retailers about the importance of getting behind the industry’s Face the Facts, Can the Tax campaign.

Did you know? The UK was the first market to sell reformulated and rebranded Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, which CCEP backed with a £10m marketing campaign.

JTI’s presence across this year’s categories is testament to another solid year for the company. The manufacturer brought top US e-cigarette brand Pro Logic to the UK in April, backed with a new merchandising unit. Its Advance website and app helped guide retailers through EUTPD II changes, while its pack- changes.co.uk website, a national campaign and PoS material educated customers on the new legislation. Regional press campaigns have highlighted the impact of the illicit trade.

Did you know? With a 42.4% share of the £15bn tobacco industry, JTI overtook Imperial Tobacco as the UK’s number one manufacturer in February.

Thank you for casting your vote! Voting is now closed. Stay tuned for the winners announcement in the 16 December issue of RN.

12. Wholesaler of the year

Wholesalers are perhaps the most important partners any independent retailer has. But with the industry evolving ever-more quickly, who is keeping pace with retailers’ changing needs most effectively?

Alongside launching its own new Bmorelocal fascia this year, Blakemore has made a £1m investment in its Penrith depot in Cumbria. The recently-acquired depot will see its staff soar from 15 to 50 and will serve retailers alongside businesses in the local tourist industry. These moves highlight the ambition that has driven the company throughout the past 12 months. January will also mark the first anniversary of Russell Grant becoming Blake- more’s managing director.

Did you know? In 1920 AF Blakemore made its first foray into wholesaling when co-founder Arthur Blakemore bulk-bought paper bags to sell on to other businesses.

Much of the attention Booker has attracted this year has been related to last year’s acquisition of the Budgens and Londis brands and the opportunities this has brought. With the Euro Shopper brand now firmly in place across the estate and a greater focus on fresh, the effects of this merger will continue to shape the destiny of this wholesaling giant. Look- ing to the future, same day delivery trials in Norwich have been a big success, with a nationwide roll out likely next year.

Did you know? Added together, the different elements of the Booker Group business empire have a combined customer base of 1.3m people in the United Kingdom.

Maintaining a steadyship is most crews’ main aim when they lose their captain but, Martin Race, named as new Bestway managing director, is taking the helm from Younus Sheikh at a busy time for the wholesaler. As well as winning the Park Garage Group contract from Palmer & Harvey, Bestway has also trialled a new value fascia in three stores – Best-one Value – to challenge the discounters. One adopter, Darren Briggs, said the customer response has been “overwhelming”.

Did you know? The Bestway Group has also invested in building businesses in a number of other industries including pharmacy, land and property, and even cement manufacturing.

The delivered wholesaler’s partnership with Conviviality was one of wholesale’s big stories this year and Martyn Ward, managing director of P&H, has described it as a deal between two “leaders in their own right”. The two-year deal is hoped to give both franchisees and other retailers the best of both operations. A new tobacco guide, meanwhile, underscored the level of support customers give the industry while it also agreed a new parcel delivery agreement with Parcelly.

Did you know? The company’s 1,300-strong fleet of vehicles makes 55,000 deliveries to retail and foodservice customers every week and is the UK’s biggest tobacco wholesaler.

Ben McKechnie’s healthier wholesaler has only been operating fully for three years but is already gaining a reputation for being one of the go-to businesses for independent retailers in search of interesting and on-trend products that can give a store that all-important point of difference. Based in the north east, the wholesaler highlights how niche healthier produce is no longer the preserve of affluent London stores but is meeting a far more national demand.

Did you know? Epicurium’s boss Ben McKechnie has identified tree waters, popcorn and meat snacks as three major trends for retailers to watch out for during 2017.

Thank you for casting your vote! Voting is now closed. Stay tuned for the winners announcement in the 16 December issue of RN.