Posted: 12/11/2020

Confessions of a deli owner: how small retailers really see it

Our anonymous deli owner gives producers the “unvarnished” truth of how small retailers really feel about selling to independent retail.

Confessions of a deli owner: how small retailers really see it

Given my anonymity, I feel I am in a unique position to tell producers how us small retailers really see it. What you’re about to read is the unvarnished stuff we don’t say at trade events because we think it will offend you. 

But, because it is (or should be) show season, here my tips for selling into independent retail.

Firstly, we want samples. This is the golden rule for food, whether you’re a customer or a retailer, taste before you buy.  

After that, packaging is our primary concern. Delis and farm shops sell premium products, so everything you sell us has to look good enough to be a gift. 

Be physically aware, too. Think about how much shelf space each unit takes up. Does it stack? How robust is it? Does it stand out? 

Any product that is too one-colour (white is worst), has too many sticky-outy bits or is simply too fragile, won’t go down well. I will lose too many to transport or moving around the shop or to children’s fingers. 

Once you’ve got that sorted, don’t forget that the packaging is your opportunity to explain yourself. Awesome design isn’t worth squat if the consumer doesn’t know what the brand is, what is inside the jar or can or tin, and what they can do with it.

I really hate subtle branding or messaging. It just makes my job much harder. Your stuff may sell well off tasters, but I have 1,000 products and I can’t get round to sampling yours every month, let alone every week.  

Now you need to think about your pitch. For the record, I do care if you are already listed in supermarkets. My customers aren’t coming to me if they’ve already spotted it next to the baked beans in aisle 24. If you’re listed with Tesco, there needs to be a pretty good reason for me to carry you as well. Other independents  might unequivocally drop you.

And, don’t tell me “it is delicious on ice cream”. Boy, have I heard that one, or something similar, a thousand times. When you say that, what I actually hear is “it’s pretty useless on its own”. There is the odd exception but please, please present your products as valuable in themselves.

The last aspect is the money. A Golden Rule for retailers is: sell it before you pay for it. Help me make that work – so keep your minimum order low even if it means putting the prices up. Little-and-often is how I like my deliveries. Promotional discounts always help, too.

Note how little I’ve said about the actual taste. It’s very important but it’s also really too personal a thing to go into here.

I just need you to make your products easy to sell. The more you do that, the more I’ll love you.

Read the latest edition of Fine Food Digest here.

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