Welcome to the Ruck Blog!

Hello and thanks for visiting our blog - here you will find interesting articles on what's happening in the world of point sale, visual merchandising and display innovation.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Black Friday vs Mega Monday - The Logistics

Today is Cyber Monday or Mega Monday in the UK! What has been the overall impact of online sales for bricks and mortar retailers? As we can see it is a mixed picture, people are still pounding the tills but from today onwards online sales reign supreme, with over 3,000 online sales a minute predicted for today. Online sales will peak on the 6th December!
Last Friday was what is known as 'Black Friday' and records showed it was the best ever year, breaking all records despite the economic down turn and weakened economies. People were still hitting the stores to get their bargains. Today they go online - this being the most unproductive day of the year as workers spend time online purchasing. 10-14% of retailers sales are now done online and this will continue to grow.

Predictions are good for today - with online sales peaking this lunchtime:

With increased online sales the courier network is the behind the scenes link in the chain, the all important cog that keeps internet sales turning. Consumer confidence has been knocked with the last few winters seeing roads closed and warehouses piling up with purchases for Christmas. Many items just didn't arrive in time last year as we saw roads closed and some of the worst weather for decades.

However the some of the stories that came out of the chaotic problems of last year were the most touching - postmen and couriers working round the clock in dangerous and freezing temperatures to make sure items arrived on time and food was delivered to remote areas, often risking becoming stranded themselves.
                                                                                          Deserted A31 Jan 2010

Part of the problem was gritters running out of salt, and keeping our infrastructure open proved to be a challenge. The impact on the economy was massive.  Last year being located next to a salt mine was a huge advantage for us; it meant locally there was easy access to grit - the trucks could get out and deliver and pick up pallets for our retailers, keeping shelves stocked and getting bulk items into warehouses ready for distribution. We utilised our range of trucks differently - opting for smaller mid sized lutons that could navigate the roads more easily and the same day service meant pallets weren't piling up in warehouses but were picked up and dropped off by the same driver, allowing the network couriers to distribute to the consumer.

This year will be different - the milder weather means that the UK won't (hopefully) have the same problems as the last couple of years. Will consumer trust be regained in the delivery network? Today will tell..if online sales break all records like Friday's in store sales then the phones shall be ringing off the hook!

Ruck Courier Service

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Impact of FSDUs - Partner Branding to Increase Sales!

After posting the last blog my colleagues and I got chatting about the impact that past Christmas POS materials have had on sales. There is no doubt that a well placed Free Standing Display Unit (FSDU) can have a massive impact on sales, especially with seasonal produce.

One very early example which is seasonally topical was the Christmas dinner add ons. The brief originally came from Bisto Foods, which was then part of RHM Foods several years ago.  Their project manager was Philipe Roucoule and the task was to visit circa 3,500 JS, Asda, Tesco, Somerfield, and Kwik Save stores over a period of 6 weeks to install free standing display units.  The object of the brief was to promote impulse purchases by linking brands that sit alongside each other on the plate; so in the fresh meat aisles we were asked to build and merchandise FSDUs to promote Bisto Gravy and Paxo stuffing.

The idea was that when a shopper bought their chicken or beef they would then see Paxo & Bisto and purchase alongside.

The impulse nature of these units was so successful they increased sales by 66% and we were asked to go back in, merchandise new and additional stock and replace or install new units if the original ones were damaged.

Early Bisto FSDU 1999

At the time it was acknowledged that these temporary units had a maximum life span of 4 weeks as they incur the use of shoppers, water from the cleaners, etc. So we looked at extending the shelf life of these units by adding plastic skirting or footers to protect the cardboard bottoms from daily cleaning as this was where the stands suffered the most.

Getting an installation company to deliver, install and merchandise the units ensures that there is at least one turn of stock on the unit. If the unit is just delivered to the store, it is then up to the store to build and merchandise the unit and as can happen they just decide to bin it as they don’t have time. Therefore we improve the return of investment (ROI) in their marketing spend by taking care of everything for them!

Merchandising a Sharwoods FSDU in Tesco, Northwich 

There are many more examples of how well thought out POP materials increase sales. I thought this one was particularly appropriate and worth sharing. It continues to be a leading method of increasing sales by partnering brands alongside one another. We regularly install FSDUs in supermarkets for brands and promotions as we have every Christmas since.

...and just for nostalgia remember this Bisto Gravy ad from the 80's?

Monday, 21 November 2011

What is the Impact of Point of Sale Merchandising?

We are hearing that in the run up to Christmas retail footfall is down by 2.3% in the last three months. The lasting impact of a period of recession, an increase in online sales, the milder weather etc is being blamed for putting people off putting their hands in their pockets and spending. As retail sales decline in the run up to Christmas when they should be increasing the picture starts to become all the more worrying.

What should retailers be doing to make sure the pounds are being spent in their store?

If people are spending less then it becomes all the more important to get it right and make sure what they do spend is spent in your store. The science behind merchandising and how it influences buyers choices is a well trodden path, but consumers are more and more aware of the 'tricks of the trade' and drive a harder bargain these days and expect a lot more value for their pound. How do you create perceived value? 

I read in an article recently that out of the 22 grocery brand leaders in the 1920s, 19 are still brand leaders today*. Looking at some of these leading brands such as Kellogg's one thing they have in common is they have had sustained marketing campaigns, good point of sale and presence on the store shelves... people will quite happily pay and extra pound for cornflakes with the Kellogg's logo - it is perceived quality.

Re-inforcing the message of the brand with good point of sale promotional materials is essential in keeping that perceived value and leading brand edge with your customer base.

Shoppers habits have changed - people work longer hours, they have less time to spend shopping and and therefore make less trips; convenience is big factor in where they choose to shop.  For FMCG products they are in a very large space, one of hundreds of thousands of products which the consumer will make a decision in a short period of time on what to spend, often within a budget. It is important that the brand presence retains existing consumers and attracts new ones. If the promotional merchandising works well they will be tempted into spending more on tempting new products, and strong brands will not be outed for cheaper versions, keeping their place in the trolley of loyal consumers.

*Article by Brenda Soars - 'What every retailer should know about the way into a shoppers head'

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Bespoke POS Odering System vs off the Shelf?

The business owners at Ruck have a long history of logistics & warehousing planning & distribution. Before software was available for POS ordering everything was done with a papertrail attached, and all the pitfalls of a manual paper system. Things have changed considerably over the last 20 years and technology has allowed a leaner more stream lined way of operating.

We were asked by our clients Budweiser Budvar to operate with a POS ordering system that was easy to use online for all their retailers at a click of a button. We set about developing a bespoke POS ordering system that met their specific needs and have continued to use this to consistently deliver an excellent service.

Since then we have extended a version of this to all our clients. One benefit of a bespoke POS ordering system is that each client can have their own, modified to meet their unique set of needs which links in to their own stock systems, and RFID warehousing.

Off the shelf packages often have their limitations and cannot be integrated into your clients databases. It can often be more cost effective to have your own system created if you have the right skills in house or can purchase the skills you need at a competitive rate.

One of the down sides of any online ordering system is the lack of human interaction. Making sure that the delivery or installation team is fully equipped with not just a tool box but with good communication skills makes the final point of contact memorable....

 A seamless link between man and machine is maintained, and it's not just another impersonal online transaction.  Combining excellent customer service with a superior tailored online ordering system allows your business to consistently deliver high service levels with the on time - every time accuracy that we all strive to maintain.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Perfect Roast Potatoes...from Field to Plate!

We have the Christmas roll outs completed this weekend - the nation has been decorated in store and out! The scene has been set in supermarkets across the UK for the buying of goods and food for the festive season. Now we are preparing the warehouse for the imminent arrival of Morrison's potatoes and onions!

The UK consumes so many root vegetables over the run up to and the Christmas period supermarkets simply cannot hold and process enough in time to make sure the shelves remain full. We will hold 15 varieties of onions alone..in ambient storage along with potatoes and other vegetables, all packed and waiting to hit the supermarket shelves for our hungry consumers.

It got me thinking about the route from field to table and everything that happens in between....and how most people are completely unaware of the careful planning that goes into making sure they have everything available for Christmas dinner! 

This little film made by family run potato producers Osbourne Farm demonstrates the harvest last September:

Whether it's goose or turkey, game or nut roast one thing we all look forward to the most... and of course cooked to perfection... are the roast potatoes! Fresh produce has to be planned and timed perfectly:- from field to processing to ambient storage temperatures to ensure its arrival on our shelves in tip top condition. We all work hard behind the scenes, the cogs of industry turning hard and fast to make sure we have those scrumptious 'roasties' on Christmas day.

Yummmmmmm!!  Home grown rosemary finishes them off perfectly!

Whatever your family tradition, the type of spud you use (always King Edwards in our house), the combination of vegetables, arguments over who will peel the spuds and stray bits of tinsel in the sprouts I'm sure Christmas 2012 will be well worth all the planning and hard work... when we all finally relax and sit down to dinner.

How to cook the perfect roast potatoes:

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Feeling it yet? Christmas Installations at Ruck.

Well it's the mad rush with the roll outs for the Christmas decoration installations and here I am putting together our first blog. I am inspired by the wonderful Christmas displays that Libertys, Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols have created this year.

Behind the Scenes: The Liberty Christmas Windows

Our installations are with multi site supermarket chains and high street stores. Here at Ruck we take a pride in what we do just as much as the visual merchandisers who create these fantastic works of art. The devil is in the detail so they say! Taking time to make sure every installation complies to the specification exactly, that all displays are in perfect condition and fitted correctly to enhance the shoppers experience...and go on admit it we are all feeling a little festive cheer in the retail industry...we start so much sooner with our Christmas projects it can't help but touch us a little bit by now!

Harrods Crystal Christmas 2011

Not that we have started our Christmas shopping yet...we're too busy making sure the retailers have the perfect setting to get shoppers in the buying mood! Have a look at these wonderful videos of how the Christmas window installations evolve...from a blank canvas to capturing the magic of Christmas.