Driving up your profits

What does Inspire Field Marketing’s Managing Director Paul Marsh believe business owners should be aware of in order to raise their games?

What’s Inspire Field Marketing all about?

We’re a full field-marketing business, so we do everything from merchandising to category refits, van sales and convenience, to mystery shopping – everything a brand needs to drive sales. With full coverage of the UK from Land’s End to John O’Groats, we employ circa 550 employees who are all fully trained and those guys will have different skill sets.

Where does that fit into the wholesale channel?

We work directly with some wholesalers and with a lot of brands in wholesale, so we hold demo days and displays in depots, manning those for one or two days, or weeks, and helping out with trade days. If you take Unitas, for example, we audit for Plan for Profit across a number of depots in the group and manage a core-range programme in stores.

We also work with suppliers, including AB InBev, managing a loyalty programme across the Unitas estate and wider convenience estate. That’s about going into a store and ensuring that a retailer is fully educated on the core range and incentivising them to stock more of it. We also do a lot of work with Kellogg’s to do van sales initiatives, where we’ll pull products from depots around the UK and physically sell it into independent retailers.

Does the service you provide fill a knowledge gap between wholesalers and retailers?

There is a gap in knowledge from a retailer point of view because a lot of the guys are still visiting two or three cash and carries, and getting some delivered. They’re getting mixed messages in terms of what they should be purchasing, so the job of Inspire when representing a brand is to talk about the category as a whole and where they fit in. We rate the sales information, and more and more on ingredient information too.

You specialise in retail merchandising, but how do you translate this into the depot?

We completed a massive initiative for Unitas at the back end of 2018, where we went and relaid all the depots with Plan for Profit point of sale on every single SKU that’s part of their core range. The idea is that as the retailer is walking the depot, those key, core-range SKUs will jump out at them because they’ve got point of sale attached to each one of the shelf-edge labels to highlight they’re part of Plan for Profit.

That’s something we’ve now implemented, we’re auditing and fixing where missing bits of POS are identified, to constantly ensure the retailer has the easiest way to shop the depot because each one is set up differently, the flow is different and the way they are categorised is different.

How is this impacted by the growth of online channels?

The wholesale app world is something we don’t look at and that’s primarily because we see our value in terms of face-to-face talking with that retailer. If it’s van sales, that’s pulling stock from a wholesaler and delivering it to a retailer, then pulling that retailer back from their store into the depot to replenish. For us, it’s about ensuring core range, driving sales and driving footfall to the depots.

Have you got any examples to show the real value you’ve had?

There are lots. We started working with what was Landmark six years ago, when there was a clear lack of knowledge from a retail base in terms of core range. What became apparent was there had been a lot of focus on measuring whether they were stocking Nescafé or Budweiser, but not so much done on the fix and education.

So we did a massive piece of work where we shifted the investment Landmark put into that project away from measurement and into fixing, incentivising and education. We took core range from 62% to 77% over three years, so a massive shift. That work is never ending because retailers constantly need re-educating – as soon as things fall off their shopping list, it’s difficult to put them back on. That’s where we come in to re-educate about the products they should be stocking, whether that’s price-marked packs, formats, or where they should be positioned in store.

Convenience is becoming the place for brands, so is it crucial wholesalers pass it on too?

Absolutely. It’s about ensuring that the supplier is represented in those stores. Each retailer knows their store better than anybody else, but it’s about educating them on the wider picture and talking to them about what the average rate of sale is on certain products because it opens their eyes to things they possibly haven’t thought about or have a preconceived idea about.

We did some work for Landmark looking at problem categories such as wine and pet food, where education was at its lowest; for example, most of the world has moved away from canned pet food to pouches, but the convenience market is a million miles behind that transition.

If a wholesale client got in touch to say their revenue is down, what would your starting point be?

If you’re a wholesaler or a supplier, the starting point is understanding the landscape and who is stocking your products. Doing a 10,000-store read to understand how deep the distribution is, what they’re stocking and some of the tertiary or competitors’ products they’re stocking, gives us an idea to plan how we can stock the non-stockists or about the ones not doing it to the right planogram in store.

Then it’s about engaging with everyone along the line to make sure the right ranges are in depot, stock is in the right place and if they’re being pulled out in the right way.


Paul’s three tips for success

1. Understand where your true gaps are. Data can play a part in that, but there is no substitute for eyeballing a store and understanding exactly what the retail landscape is telling you.

2. Gain an understanding of why there are gaps. Is it a price issue or an issue with knowledge of the category? Is it that your product hasn’t been put in front of retailers?

3. Don’t just fill a gap and run away from it. One of the big challenges is handholding a retailer so they understand the long-term benefits of stocking those gaps.

Inspire Field Marketing Paul Marsh