In this blog, Whitecap Associate and retail specialist Nick Parkes outlines the challenges faced by many product owners trying to access the volume sales channels: supermarkets, and how best to develop a successful strategy.
Nick has considerable experience working with established and growing brands operating across a range of retail categories, including working with Nestle, Sara Lee, Goldenfry, Mars and Mondelez. Nick has also helped retailers such as Morrisons and Costcutter Supermarkets Group drive category performance with supplier engagement.

Are you the leader of an aspiring FMCG scale-up?

So, you’ve created a product, you have the foundation of a brand and you have a few listings locally and some online sales, but what you really want is the ‘big time’ and scaled distribution. Somewhere your brand and its story will come to life, somewhere your dream of building a volume business will work.

You want a supermarket listing!

First you have to get face-to-face with a buyer

But even before you’ve picked up the phone or typed the email, ask yourself, are you prepared?

You might only have 5 or 10 minutes to convince that person that you are worthy of that precious shelf space and that you’re going to add to the category sales and profit pool; and you certainly won’t be the only opportunity they have in front of them that day, that week or that month!

Your preparation should start with a strong category strategy that lays out to you and your potential buyer, what your product is all about, how you are going to make sure that your potential consumers know where your product is and what it will add to their life.  After all, yours will be one of many thousands of choices they will have in front of them when they go shopping. A good category strategy will act as a roadmap to you and the retailer of how you will make that journey and how you will measure success.

Think ‘VOST’

In these cases, we find it useful to think ‘VOST’ in developing your plan. Start with your target shopper in mind. Set out an easily communicable Vision that they find easy to engage with and explains what you’re about; develop a limited set of Objectives by which you will measure success; define your Strategy, not a set of what you’re going to do, but the consumer levers you are going to pull to drive growth. Finally, set out your Tactics, think of the actual things you are going to do to realise your Strategy, deliver your Objectives and convey your Vision.

In the end, it is this clarity of thought that will get you the precious listing(s) and will save you having to pay through the nose to achieve it. A well thought out plan that delivers incremental revenue and profit for your target retailer will win the day; not how deep your pockets are! Remember it is a supermarket buyers’ job to deliver on these metrics for their business – a buyer who doesn’t take an opportunity to grow their metrics is not doing their job properly.

No one would expect you to have all this at your fingertips. It will certainly take some pulling together to understand the data and insights before you and to shape it into a cohesive plan. This is where someone experienced in retail and category management will provide valuable support and guidance, someone who’s ability to shape a plan and help you deliver it will be worth considerably more than the initial investment.

If this sounds like you and your current situation, Nick would be delighted to talk with you in more detail and give some additional pointers that he has gained having operated on both sides of the planning and negotiation.
In his next blog, Nick will outline a more advanced approach for established brands and how to develop an effective multi-channel retail strategy and maintain it.
Retail strategy is a well-debated topic and we are keen to hear your views on these points, as well as any stories from your own experiences in putting a retail strategy into practice. Please post your thoughts and tag ‘Whitecap Consulting’ (LinkedIn) or @Whitecapconsult (Twitter), or send Nick a note at [email protected] to share your thoughts.


Established in 2012, Whitecap Consulting is a regional strategy consultancy headquartered in Leeds, with offices in Manchester, Milton Keynes, Bristol and Newcastle. We typically work with boards, executives and investors of predominantly mid-sized organisations with a turnover of c£10m-£300m, helping clients analyse, develop and implement growth strategies. Also, we work with clients across a range of sectors including Financial Services, Technology, FinTech, Outsourcing, Consumer and Retail, Property, Healthcare, Higher Education and Professional Services, including Corporate Finance and PE.