A look at banner groups

Banner groups are a pivotal cog in the wheel of convenience retail and help provide their members with strategic plans and the skills to learn, develop, and grow their business into a more successful operation.

Darren Park, CEO of United Convenience Buyers (UCB), believes that while retail buying groups can’t pretend to have every single answer to every single situation, as the business world becomes increasingly competitive and complicated, they do offer a safe harbour within which like-minded retailers can seek support, assistance, and understanding.

“What UCB believe is that with our members, trade partners, and UCB all working together we all go faster, save management time, and achieve more than any of us could on our own.”

Park explains that one of UCB’s key strengths is to look for situations where flexibility and nimbleness allow them to respond to opportunities or manage issues with pace.

“The key strength for UCB is what allows us to be nimble at store level and that strength is our business managers – those dedicated UCB employees who are on the road, in our member stores, day in and day out. Helping our members no matter how big or small, to maximise their trading opportunities. Layouts, trade partner liaison, and instore execution are just some of the areas our field team cover.”

Steve Cardinale, Managing Director of New Sunrise, said New Sunrise prides themselves on the true partnership and honest collaboration with their strategic partners.

“We adopt a ‘one size does not fit all’ approach to the market, where others do not. We recognise that two stores, in the same suburb, but on different sides of a road, can have largely differing shopper missions. We offer a tailored program, which has been premiumised and has the ability to be customised.

“Our passion is the success of our retail members. We work with our members to assist them in setting the store up for success. This includes floor plans, hosting product files, customising in-house built planograms, aligning with over 120 suppliers, providing retail training, providing hardware support, access to qualified chefs and baristas, providing a help desk to assist in invoice issues, provide a benchmark category analysis by store and category management to optimise return on working capital. We go far and beyond providing just the ‘buying’ function, which is only the tip of the iceberg,” explains Cardinale.

Glenys Tristram, National Marketing Manager at NightOwl Convenience, believes banner groups provide a level of security to the new business owner.

“The owner is certainly their own boss and with NightOwl there is flexibility in all areas of business management. However, having the full support of a company like ours with a head office full of dedicated experts in their fields means the new owner isn’t trying to wear all the hats in the business at once.

“The NightOwl support office provides training and support to the individual owner, and then there’s the economy of scale when it comes to marketing, buying, and supply chain needs. Why wouldn’t you join a banner group? The benefits give an owner a tangible business advantage.”

Changing times

A c-store customer is looking for a retail offer that sits between a fully-fledged supermarket and traditional convenience store. They want to shop all they want, how they want, and at fair price, explains Kellie Struth, Head of Category and Marketing at APCO.

“That is the reality of our shoppers’ expectations today, there’s so many options and choices for the shopper, so APCO is committed and consistently evolving to deliver this retail box mix.”

The introduction of online retailing is having a big influence on convenience retailing, says Struth, for both good and bad reasons.

“It is here to stay and APCO is investing significantly in IT infrastructure, systems and processes to meet these future trends.”

The digitisation of the industry is something that Matt Elliott, VP mobility and convenience ANZ at bp, has also noticed.

“Online ordering, payment, and delivery is booming with a strong demand for delivered convenience. As an example, bp’s Couchfood branded home delivery service now operates from more than 200 stores and our in-car mobile fuel payment app, BPme, saw a 29 per cent increase in use last year.

“Our convenience business is constantly expanding and adapting as our customers’ needs change. From home deliveries through our partnership with Uber Eats, to a trial of checkout-free technology and a reimagined ‘food for now’ offer.”

Park recognises that demographic changes are under way across the country and are sending new waves of shoppers into stores.

“Shoppers have different wants and needs at different ages. For example, teenagers likely aren’t as interested in buying health care products as older adults might be. Similarly, older customers may be more concerned with price, while younger shoppers may be more interested in appearance and brand… they want to Tik Tok everything!

“We are also seeing more attention on brand purpose, what are brands and retailers doing for the environment and my community? We are addressing these through knowledge sharing, for example when we make a ranging change, why are we doing it? Is there a demographic reason for example or some other marketplace factor at play?”

Cardinale believes we will see continued movements into robotics at front and back of house, particularly in QSR and restaurants, which will see improvements in speed of service and variety of range. He also sees it entering convenience, and that food and coffee orders of the future may look quite different.

“But what won’t change is that people will still be on the move and while they are moving, they will need to eat, drink, and use bathrooms. No amount of technology can replace the ‘now’ especially when it comes to a providing the energy they need to get on with their day.”

A convenient future

Haydn Tierney, Managing Director of Bowser Bean, said the past 12 months have held some impressive changes for the business including the launch of its biggest greenfield location to date, Bowser Bean Echuca, and the refurbishment and relaunch of sites at Violet Town, Strathmerton, and Euroa.

But Bowser Bean doesn’t plan to stop there, and Tierney expects to see more growth in the coming year.

“Bowser Bean is continually expanding their network of sites, aiming to service more local communities across regional Victoria and NSW. There will be continued improvement on our instore offering, with additional focus on the take-home food offer. We will be enhancing our customer interaction through the upcoming launch of the Bowser Bean app. Bowser Bean is ramping up its social media and marketing channels, in addition to some dramatic branding plans that will create much hype amongst local communities.”

Also looking to evolve their food offer and introducing an app, is APCO.

“I think our Cafe 24-7 foodservice strategy will continue to evolve and amplify over the next 12 months through new product development in our hot and chilled ready to eat range. The launch of our APCO App early 2023 will enhance our on-line delivery business and no doubt scale our reach and performance,” Struth explains.

Elliot said that bp plan to increase its customer touchpoints to more than 15 million a day globally by 2025.

“Our convenience strategy is about creating something distinctive, that really sets us apart from other convenience offers – so we’re trialling, testing and rolling out compelling new offers across our network.  

“We’re also upgrading stores to deliver a great in-store experience – delivering clearer signage, more thoughtful store layouts and improved technology.”

Cardinale said that New Sunrise’s priority is to continue to drive retail growth by giving shoppers more reasons to stop at New Sunrise stores.

“The shift in this mindset will move customers from treating convenience as transactional commodity-based visits, to experiential and daily habitual visits. We seek to do this in a number of ways, including the recalibration of the pricing and promotional mix on key categories.

“New Sunrise will support retail members through driving awareness of their stores and locations. We will accelerate our brand love and awareness of the Sunrise Enjoy Local brand and our mascot, Sunny Sunrise. Through both the digital sphere and our above-the-line TV campaigns, we aim to educate and connect with Australian Consumers, so that they know that when they see Sunny Sunrise, they are supporting a locally owned and operated store, offering genuine care for the local community.”

This care includes continuing its storing brand partnerships with both ‘Heart of the Nation’ and ‘Beyond Blue’, which reinforces the important role New Sunrise sites play in their local communities as they continue to build on their mission of helping people in their communities enjoy life and get on with their day.

Park reiterates that as an industry, if P&C want to thrive and prosper, it must be relatively united in its focus.

“Product inflation control and supply chain continuity are crucial to our success. We are a profitable and brand led channel for many trade partners, and we have millions of shopper missions to solve for each and every day. It’s a team effort.”

This article was written for the October/November issue of C&I Retailing magazine.

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