Nisa hails festive sales as 
go local

Neil Turton, CEO of NisaNeil Turton, CEO of Nisa
Neil Turton, CEO of Nisa
A SHIFT in consumer behaviour towards shopping locally is helping to drive sales at independents, according to Nisa, as the buying group reported a “robust” trading performance among its member retailers over the festive period.

Scunthorpe-headquartered Nisa aims to help independent retailers remain competitive in the food and drink markets, supplying more than 4,000 stores across the UK, some of which are branded Nisa Local and Nisa Extra.

Nisa said that its member retailers recorded sales growth of 15.3 per cent in value terms and 16.4 per cent in volume year-on-year for the four trading weeks of December.

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The company said the week prior to Christmas delivered the second highest weekly volume of 2013.

Neil Turton, chief executive, told the Yorkshire Post: “There is a significant shift in consumer behaviour and you can see this in virtually everyone’s trading statements now.

People are shopping more locally. A consumer will visit a Nisa store four times a week; they are managing their spend due to the economic circumstances and are anxious to avoid fuel costs. People’s lifestyles are changing so whereas before, 20 years ago, people did a big family shop and everyone knew where they would be on different nights of the week, people are living much more transient lifestyles now and are shopping nearer.

“In the big scheme of things, that why all the big multiples tried to get into convenience a few years ago”, he added.

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Mr Turton said a big new supply contract with convenience store operator McColl’s has boosted the figures too.

Nisa said that more than 9.6 million cases (orders of stock), equating to a value of £133.6m, were purchased through its warehouses over the four-week period with its independent retailer members “trading strongly”.

“Both sales and operating margin are significantly ahead of budget and further strengthen Nisa’s position as it enters 2014”, Nisa said.

A spokesman for Nisa confirmed that member retailers recorded £133m worth of sales in the four-week period, compared to £114m the previous year.

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Mr Turton added that consumers feel that independents are “genuine and embedded in their communities more”.

“We often argue... that there’s a very strong case for shopping locally because money spent recycles in the local community, local shops are more likely to use local suppliers for products and services and providing the local store gets that message over really well and communicates that to the consumer, the biggest thing that consumers are looking for in stores... is firstly availability of products, which independents are very good at, but secondly the friendly experience people have in the shops.”

He said consumers wanted to find good solutions locally and if independents could communicate their “provenance, ethics, integrity and localness” then they did “very, very well”.

However, Mr Turton stressed that the trend towards shopping locally was more than just independent, adding: “It’s just that independents are really well placed to take advantage of it if they can be good enough.”

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Nisa’s figures contrast with the performance of the supermarket sector over the festive period. Industry leader Tesco said like-for-like sales were down 2.4 per cent in the six weeks to January 4, while a fall of 5.6 per cent at Morrisons led the Bradford-based chain to warn that profits will be short of some City hopes.

Christopher Baker, chairman at Nisa, said: “I think people have got disillusioned with the big supermarket chains over the last year.

“When you hear people talk about food multiple competitors, it’s not in terms of affection generally and I think there’s a sense that the independent retailer is adding life to the high street, it’s not trying to dominate the way some of our competitors are accused of.”

Chris Taylor, owner of Taylors of Tickhill, in South Yorkshire, said the business, which is a member of Nisa, experienced growth in Christmas trading. He said: “Although we experienced a slightly sluggish start to December, the last two trading weeks were up on 2012.”

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Another member, Andrew Jempson, owner of Jempsons Supermarket, based in East Sussex and Kent, said: “We are delighted to report a strong final quarter of 2013 particularly the month of December showing a 3.5 per cent growth year on year.

“Christmas trading was very brisk... and despite the high winds and heavy rain we reported our highest ever daily sales total.”