Think about this: “I didn’t invent the hamburger. I just took it more seriously than anyone else.”
The quote is from the late Ray Kroc, the man who invented the McDonald’s franchise business. This attitude to business is something that the NFRN is bringing to the news and convenience store sector.
Often misunderstood and often disparaged as being a talking shop for out-of-date ideas and unrealistic nostalgia for the days of local monopolies and higher margins, the organisation on display in Torquay last week was anything but.
The trade association’s members control 16,000 retail outlets and its conference was opened by Steve Fox, sales director, retail at Booker, the UK’s market leading wholesale supplier and symbol group operator.
“Without you there would not be a thriving small store sector,” Fox told 200 retailers present.
Booker is obsessed with helping its customers to be more successful. Its talk about choice, price and service is like the logo in a stick of seaside rock. And it works.
Unlike many trade organisations, the NFRN is prepared to fall out publicly with vendors to retailers. The way that bill payments company PayPoint cut retailers’ margins received plenty of air time.
Two senior PayPoint executives were invited to present and to answer questions. This created a unique forum where the vendor was able to talk to retailers and retailers were able to share their world view. For busy independent retailers meeting face-to-face helps them to understand that they are not alone.
The NFRN is there to help, chief executive Paul Baxter made clear. It will do this by supporting members in tackling problems with vendors but also in providing them with access to best practice ideas and great deals.
News remains a strength. As a group the NFRN sells four times more than the next largest retail group. Greg Deacon, independents sales manager at News UK, showed retailers at the conference the scale of its ongoing support for newspapers and their shops.
“Newspapers are the loyalty card for the independent trade,” he said.
Baxter told members that the NFRN gives them access to great ideas. But it cannot make them successful. “You need to decide what you want to be famous for,” he told them.
A retailer’s job is to take responsibility for their own brand. Multiple retailers are not especially brilliant, says Baxter who used to work alongside Mike Coupe, now chief executive of Sainsbury’s. What they are good at is being consistent. Find what your customers like and focus on doing this well, he advised.
“In everything we do, we do it for the member,” said outgoing president Martyn Brown. If you are a member, you should think about how to become more active. If you are not, Baxter and his team would be happy to talk about signing you up.
He closed his trading session with reference to a quote from American coach Lou Holtz: “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”