Up until a year ago, Palmer & Harvey (P&H) viewed itself as a very efficient traditional wholesaler and that was all - but now that’s changed. P&H says it has enhanced its market-leading delivery capabilities by offering complete, tailored solutions for its retail partners - and those include many forecourts.

Richard Heyhoe, director of marketing, explains: "Our industry-leading supply chain, offering service levels of over 98%, is still the backbone of the business, but during the past 12 months through launches of initiatives such as Partnership Plus, we have begun a transformation. Our standing in the industry means we are well placed to leverage our scale, capability and deep understanding of the retail sector to provide a fully integrated offering that helps independent businesses to remain competitive.

"Our service to customers is ongoing and evolving, and we are constantly in touch about new products, promotions and offers in order to give independent retailers the best knowledge in the business, supported by the right tools to make a success of their business."


== Boosting sales and profits ==


P&H is particularly proud of the aforementioned Partnership Plus - a scheme that’s tailored to both store format and region, and designed to boost the sales and profit of independent customers. But Partnership Plus is just one of a raft of new initiatives that P&H has launched. There’s also Plus News, a new category management service for newspaper and magazines in independent outlets; and PREP (Promoting Retail Excellence Programme), a scheme designed to encourage and reward in-store excellence among P&H’s symbol customers. Then there’s the relaunch of its symbol offer, adding more value for both existing and potential new members; as well as the relaunch of its third party direct-to-store drop shipment scheme. Last but not least is a £5m investment in infrastructure improvements to facilitate the launch of its new chilled and fresh offer.

Heyhoe continues: "Through this series of new initiatives, all underpinned by our nationwide delivery service, we’re confident we’re now in an unrivalled position of strength to offer independent retailers the key building blocks for success - and be the definitive one-stop-shop that retailers can depend on. Last year saw us leverage our scale, capability and deep understanding of the retail sector in order to benefit our customers and help independent businesses compete effectively, outperforming the competition - a must in today’s tough retail environment."


== Partnership Plus ==


P&H claims Partnership Plus offers superb value and service, combined with "the best retail support and knowledge available in the industry". It provides tailored retail solutions, carefully matched to both store format and region. It includes category management, stock merchandising, expert business advice and exclusive promotional packages.

Other benefits claimed include simple net pricing, even if retailers buy only one outer of a product.

"Retailers joining Partnership Plus further benefit from our special focus on key growth areas like our new range of chilled and fresh foods which includes ready meals, pizzas, fresh meats, premium sliced meats, bagged salads and fruit," says Heyhoe. "All our product ranges get ranked in terms of sales, as we communicate impartial core range as well as optional extended range information. There’s also a reward scheme where the more you buy, the bigger the reward."

Heyhoe reckons Partnership Plus provides independent retailers with the level of support that key grocery multiples have been getting for years.

Partnership Plus was launched at Pro-retail last year, following a trial roll-out to its symbol customers. To date there are 1,348 live accounts, with another 779 pending. Overall, P&H is seeing an 18% increase in average sales from customers taking part.


== Plus News ==


Plus News provides independent retailers with a comprehensive toolkit designed to manage every aspect of the traditionally difficult news and magazine category. It also aims to help drive sales.

In a dramatic departure for the industry, Plus News gives independent retailers control over the range of product delivered as a result of agreed planograms, that are an intrinsic part of the service. Says Heyhoe: "Not only does this ensure that stores can now receive what is relevant and will sell but they’re also benefiting from availability increase, while reducing overall waste - which has a major positive impact on cashflow too."


== Plus Extra ==


P&H’s third party drop-shipment scheme, Plus Extra, has also been relaunched to bring retailers a comprehensive range of products and services on over 40 categories in key growth areas from over 220 suppliers.

"We’ve leveraged our scale and converted the substantial buying power we command from supplying 20,000 independent retailers to negotiate deep discounts and exclusive pricing on household names across 70,000 lines that cannot be beaten, so independent retailers benefit from the serious clout a huge company like Palmer & Harvey has with suppliers," says Heyhoe.

He says product solutions help retailers maximise sales and there’s advice available too for those who want to extend their product ranges. Plus Extra members also benefit from consolidated weekly statements, plus the support of a centralised accounting function - and best of all, it’s all free.


== Symbol of success ==


Finally, P&H’s Mace symbol group celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and, for its birthday, gets a relaunch with new identity as well as better benefits for its retail members.

Competitive prices, promotions and a wide range of pos material lead the way. See next month’s issue of Forecourt Trader for full details.


=== Case study ===

Palmer & Harvey states that if retailers join its Partnership Plus programme, their sales and profits will definitely increase.

In January 2007 Kathiravan Ramajayam took over running Ablewell Convenience Store and Jet forecourt in Walsall in the West Midlands.

At that time it was achieving sales of £14,000 a week. However the shop offer was out of date and locals preferred to shop at the supermarkets.

By the end of 2007, Kathiravan had signed up with Partnership Plus and switched to Mace. In order to improve the store’s image, it received a complete overhaul - the layout was changed, the chilled range was increased, promotions were added as were an alcohol section and a fresh food offer.

The result? Sales have grown to £22,000 per week.


=== Facts & Figures ===

l P&H was founded in 1925 and began life as a traditional tobacco and confectionery wholesaler

l In August 2007 P&H acquired T&A Symonds Limited

l In January 2008 Northrealm Limited (the holding company of WH&HM Young Limited) was acquired

l In March 2008 there was a £288m management buy-out

l In the last financial year, sales broke the £4bn mark for the first time