FWD PR Action Group (PRAG) driving the My Shop Is Your Shop campaign
Next Thursday morning (May 26) the Daily Mirror and the Daily Record, in Scotland, will publish a feature telling the British public that there are lots of great independent retailers serving their communities throughout the UK.
A total of more than six million readers will see this editorial linked with money-off coupons for ten of the country's biggest brands - redeemable at independents who form the core customer base of the nation's cash and carry and delivered wholesalers.
It's happening just ahead of the third National Independents' Day (NID) on June l - a festival that is still in its infancy but one with huge potential for the wholesale/independent sector.
This use of the power of the tabloids is just one tangible result of the My Shop Is Your Shop (MSYS) campaign. It is a historic achievement. Never before has there been a wholesaler-driven generic campaign targeting the consumer - the only person who matters, we are told, in the jungle warfare that goes for the grocery trade in the UK.
But, on reflection, is that a true statement or just marketing speak?
In my view, there is another person who is just as important as the shopper - shock, horror! Yes, that person is the genuine local independent retailer.
There are now big signals that, in year three of MSYS, both wholesalers and their retail customers are committing to the principles of the campaign. Why? The answer is because it makes sound commercial sense for the sole trader and family business to 'do community' better than the competition. And potentially they can - in spades.
MSYS chairman, the gritty Alan Toft, has put down some cast-iron policy ground rules for PRAG, which no-one is allowed to break.
He will not countenance anti-Tesco lobbying in PRAG. He's right. Why waste time duplicating the trade and consumer protest movements that are working on that anti-multiple platform?
The MSYS platform is pure, single-minded and finely focused on supporting the independent retailer in positive ways - no moaning, just marketing.
I have come round to the view, and, I believe, so have many wholesalers of my acquaintance, that there is a parallel thrust and objective in MSYS - to educate the shopper and to inspire the retailer.
The Daily Mirror/Daily Record money-off coupon promotion is one method of drawing consumer attention to the local store.
Other methods we are employing as we approach NID include alerting the media to examples of fabulous independents without whom the marketplace would be so much poorer. It's not the sexiest story to sell to the media, but with persistence we will achieve the long-term goals set by MSYS.
We are on a journey to establish in public awareness the fact that the trader who owns the business, lives over the shop, drinks down the pub and whose kids go to local schools can never be replaced.
And from that sense of belonging, the sole trader and family business can become involved in community promotional activity with genuine commitment. Commercially, the independent is saying to customers: &aquot;My shop is your shop. I'm local and proud of it, and I'm working to help this community of which we are all a part.&aquot;
It's a powerful message.
As the campaign is developed over future years, it will become more important to consumers who are demonstrating increasingly that they distrust power-based monoliths in many walks of life.We will draw power from these consumers for our cause.