Manufacturers are all talk and no action when it comes to dealing with retailers in the convenience sector.
According to a survey of 700 retailers across the market, from managed chains and independents to forecourt operators, suppliers are still not taking the sector seriously.
The 2003 Convenience Tracking Programme from Harris International Marketing shows little change since last year in retailers' opinions about suppliers' commitment to the sector, understanding of convenience, knowledge of retailers' businesses, and understanding of their shoppers (see Insight p17).
The only areas where retailers claim to have seen some improvement, albeit a pinprick, were in display and merchandising and planograms/space planning.
The results are extraordinary considering the amount of consolidation in the sector over the past year. Not only is convenience the sexy market of the moment, with major players like Tesco putting it high on the retail agenda, but existing independent retailers have also been upping the ante through takeover activity, store refurbishments and a more customer-focused offer.
The result, as the HIM research shows, is that shopper spend per trip has risen significantly.
So why are manufacturers still failing to deliver the goods? Sure, there is a lot of noise emanating from suppliers "refocusing their businesses" or "restructuring with dedicated convenience teams", as the pages of The Grocer have shown over the past year.
But it appears it is just that. Noise. Few tangible benefits have actually made their way to the retailers. The bold statements have not been followed through.
There is a plethora of trends research showing convenience to be today's growth market. There is sure to be further consolidation, out of which will arise stronger retail brands and more sophisticated customer offers.
Then those suppliers with less talk and more action will be the winners. The rest will wish they had taken the sector more seriously at the start.