There has been a noticeable increase in the number of wholesalers running their own retail fascia schemes, as independents look for tools to help them fend off the multiples and wholesalers look for ways to protect their customer base and improve the quality of offers downstream in the independent retail chain.

This has driven a variety of enhancements to existing fascia programs. And Parfetts Cash and Carry has launched a pilot test that could lead to the launch of its own fascia scheme.

These moves are in keeping with the response from our wholesaler reader panel: 86% of the panel said they either run their own retail fascia scheme or have access to one through buying organisations such as Landmark, for example.

One wholesaler in the south also reported that his company is testing a retail fascia programme.

All the panel members who currently operate retail fascia schemes said they were performing very well, primarily because the schemes drive better merchandising and retail discipline in stores.

One panel member from the south west reported that his company had recruited 20% more retailers to its scheme than it had at this point last year.

Of course, retail fascia schemes are not a miracle cure for wholesalers. It is a highly competitive space and retailers can pick from a number of retail fascia schemes if they wish to join one.

One panel member said: "It's not an easy thing to do. You have to make a commitment to the programme and you do have to get the package and offering right for the market."

Thus, 15% of our panel have had to scrap fascia schemes in the past as a result of poor performance. One member said: "The fascia is not the be-all and end-all. I think success in-store is about discipline in terms of service, ranging and pricing."

That said, it is clear that retail fascia schemes can be helpful and are a potentially important option in the wholesalers' toolkit. Some 75% of our panel agreed, saying that fascia schemes are the way forward. One member said: "We would think it is a good idea for the sector. Taking on a retail fascia package ties retailers more closely to the wholesalers and gives us more of an opportunity to influence the end result."?