Shape up to survive in 2008

11 January, 2008

Price hikes, duty fears, supplier-retailer tensions and concerns about economic slowdown - it must be the start of a new year. The trade faces some real challenges

in 2008, both economic and regulatory. Even robust Majestic registered disappointing November sales, with chief executive Tim How blaming increasing consumer caution.

A good number of wine and spirits suppliers have worked to persuade consumers that wine is an "everyday product" rather than a luxury - and luxuries are the first products to go in a downturn. Let's hope that key brands are embedded deeply enough in consumers' minds to keep moving off the shelves in 2008, whatever the economic outlook.

Retailers will have to be more responsible than ever as police and Trading Standards turn to surveillance to monitor stores, while the government will review everything from pricing and promotion to

labelling in the industry.

While the industry waits for official Christmas trading figures to be published, some good news is filtering through from the independent sector. Several of OLN's key independent contacts, particularly those who have carved a niche for themselves, have enjoyed their best festive sales yet. It seems that good old-fashioned customer service and genuine choice still reap rewards.

Instant gratification

It's good news for Scottish retailers that, should they be the subject of a test purchase any time soon, they will be told instantly whether they've passed or failed. They shouldn't have to worry about the subjects lying about

their ages, either, as the Scottish government has advised against it.

They should spare a thought for retailers in England and Wales, where approaches have varied wildly. It's about time Westminster took control and published a clear set of guidelines.

No excuses

Samples of Alibi - billed as "the world's first active pretox drink" - arrived at OLN's offices recently. The canned soft drink is designed "to prepare the body and process toxins, including those which may typically occur from consuming alcohol", according to its press blurb. There's no responsible drinking information on the product packaging. In fact, the wording on the can says "prevention is better than cure, so why detox when you can pretox". Ironic, isn't it, that at a time when the alcoholic drinks industry is falling over itself to be responsible, soft drinks makers are giving consumers the impression that as long as they drink a herbal concoction, they can knock back as much alcohol as they want.

Sad farewell

It's sad to see Orbital go to the wall. The enthusiasm of the whole team was infectious and Orbital's brands and plans were fun to write about. I hope the team and brands find new homes soon.

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