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A short item on the Sun’s City pages notes that high street sales were up in April by the highest number for that month in nine years* and linked the good news story with Booker’s results. Wholesaler Booker is a good bellwether for the go ahead independent shopkeeper who is investing in their business.
Booker, the Sun reported, said that customers were shopping locally and the paper reported that its Premier store chain had achieved a 10 per cent rise in sales. Wow! The Sun’s paragraph may skew the facts but it is a great warm story about the success of local independent shops.
Over in the FT, comment on Booker was missing. However, this does not mean the company is lacking fans. Analyst Dave McCarthy of Evolution Securities says it has world class management and is investing sensibly in development. While some of the upside comes from India and foodservice, it is also doing a great job of serving local shops.
The secrets of Booker’s success are not secret. They make a point of telling their customers exactly what they are doing. Steve Fox, most recently in Retail Newsagent, 13 May, spelled out its choice, price and service mantra. What it does for its customers, retailers should do for shoppers.
“The biggest thing we did last year was drive the value message,” he said. Through EuroShopper, through £1 ranges, through price-marked fruit and vegetables and through two-for-one promotions on Happy Shopper.
Another great strength of Booker is that they are close to retailers, talking to them frequently… and listening. Again, this is precisely the same strength that good local shops have with shoppers.
In Retail Newsagent, they interviewed Sam Patel who has developed his Atherstone shop from 400sq ft to 2,000 in the past six years. Mr Patel is keen to expand more. Interestingly, he admits that Booker are telling him to put the brakes on expansion so that he can see the benefits of his current investment.
Returning to Mr McCarthy. He is an analyst who also studies Tesco, Sainsbury’s and their competitiors closely. He is aware of their plans to swamp the local shop market with more selling space. Yet he still raves about Booker, which is built on supplying local shops. This is good news for your business…if you are a local retailer who is paying attention…because it shows that the fundamentals are strong.
* Of course, very few Aprils have Easter, a Royal Wedding and great weather!
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