The independents have a long way to go in refining their PPS fixtures, says Andrea Hargrave, wine and spirits buying controller of leading cash and carry group, Booker. "There is much confusion about what should be on their fixtures and inconsistency in their ranging policies because of the many products on the market," she says. "They need to get their ranging, merchandising and promotional support right. For our part we are looking closely at what we offer so we have the right products in depots. "We also advise on key suppliers and the main brands that should be on the shelves and we plan to provide merchandising guidelines." Booker's aim is to ease the way for independents to make their decisions. "The market is starting to mature and could go into decline but it will be here for a long time to come," says Hargrave. Booker too is passing on the Chancellor's tax increase and prices have risen by 14%. Hargrave reports: "We have not seen any drop in sales, in fact we are recording pre-duty rates of growth. It seems this is a resilient sector which is holding up well." She believes most suppliers are keeping their options open about how to react to the extra tax burden. "Although Bacardi-Martini has already dropped the strength of Breezer, most are sitting back and reviewing activity in the market. "In the long term it will become increasingly dominated by the branded players and the me-too products will fail. It is certain the branded spirit companies will continue to develop their products. I would expect another three major brands to come onto the market before the year's end." She points out there are still different spirit bases to play with as Bulmers has demonstrated with its cachaca-based Bambao product. Hargrave adds that the market polarisation has created a raft of 4% abv products selling at less than £1. Booker is in this market with its own label Chekov Ice, which is an offshoot of Chekov vodka. "This gives it some credibility. It is relatively inexpensive and gives retailers the opportunity to compete," she says. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}