Kay Patel looks at what you should consider when choosing a symbol group.

Choosing a symbol group can be a daunting task, but there is no doubt it can pay huge dividends if done right.

It can also be a big commitment, especially if you’re tied into a contract or asked to pay joining fees – whether this is in the form of an admin fee, buying shares or paying for signage, etc.

There are lots of symbol groups out there and you really need to find the one that will cater best to your store and your shoppers’ needs. There is also the question of what kind of store standards you are prepared to meet and the ways of working. For example, if you’re 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.

However, if you feel you are a bit more committed and willing to work to a higher standard, you could look at one of the bigger delivered-only symbols.

Whatever level you decide to go in at, its best to do your homework first because there can be big differences from symbol to symbol – even if they appear to be very similar.

Here is a ticklist of some of the questions you might want to ask:

  • Are there any initial costs?
  • What ongoing fees are there?
  • Are there delivery charges?
  • Is there a minimum spend?
  • Is there a minimum percentage of buying through them?
  • Is there a minimum length contract?
  • Will I have to purchase any new equipment, such as EPoS?
  • Do they allocate stock (are certain lines sent out automatically each month)?
  • How frequent are the deliveries?
  • How quick are the lead times for deliveries?
  • What are their wholesale prices like compared to your existing suppliers?
  • How extensive is the product range?
  • Do they provide development support and in what form?
  • Do they provide a chilled & frozen range?
  • Do they have a charity scheme that you can support your local community through?
  • Do they offer advertising support – either nationally or locally?
  • What kind of consumer offers do they run?
  • How will they help me to stand out against the competition in the area?
  • Is there an own label offer?
  • Do they run a loyalty/rebate scheme?
  • Do they offer area exclusivity and what area will it cover?
  • Will they invest in my store and in what way?

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