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“We’re blessed with a wonderful business where we sell moments of pleasure at cents a time…billions of times every day,” Muhtar Kent, who heads Coca-Cola, tells the Financial Times. I have cut the quote in half because the first half is what lots of local retailers are in the business of providing in the CTN market.
CTN, which stands for confectionery tobacco newsagent, is a specific term that covers a loose style of retailing where people make frequent out-of-pocket purchases. In the modern convenience store, CTN is a major category alongside top-up shopping, food to go and a food for later offering (fresh and chilled).
Mr Kent is clear that selling moments of pleasure for cents at a time is a recession proof business – provided you have enough scale. Most local shop owners recognise that they are in the pennies business, needing to build sales volumes.
A second theme is his commitment to investment in the future of the business. It is why Coke has supported the Olympics since 1928. It is why it is spending $12billion in Africa. Successful local shops are investing in their futures too.
A third is his confidence in what he sells. Challenged by the FT on obesity, Mr Kent emphasises that it has to give consumers choice. Only then does he say that they have innovated to make soft drinks better for people. Successful local shops need to be positive about the choice they provide their shoppers and be able to articulate what a good job they do.
Finally, you need to be aware of regulation. Mr Kent thinks that soda taxes will not take off in the USA. His company is arguing that they need to be part of the solution to obesity, working alongside society and government. Obviously, Coke has a fair amount of money to press its position with. Remember, local retailers can have a voice too, working collaboratively through activities like My Shop is Your Shop.