Palmer and Harvey’s Pro-retail show was a big hit with independent retailers, according to research conducted at the show.

A whopping 96 per cent of those who attended said the show was important to their business. Ninety-eight per cent said they would definitely recommend the show to other independent retailers.

The calibre of visitors also improved this year, with 88 per cent of attendees either business owners or key decision makers, up from 75 per cent in 2010. For 88 per cent of visitors Pro-retail is the only show they will attend this year, making Pro-retail a hub for high level business.

Attendees to the show were able to visit more than 200 exhibitors to find out about latest products and services. Additionally, Palmer and Harvey created special zones to educate visitors on the fastest growing categories of alcohol and chilled & fresh food.  These zones proved popular amongst guests, with 80 per cent visiting them.

The research, carried out by Unravel, an independent research company, also confirmed the show’s ongoing popularity, with 90 per cent planning to return in 2012.

In the alcohol zone, Palmer and Harvey showed how even small shops can wow with their displays, with examples of best-in-class merchandising. The zone featured category advice from the industry’s big brands such as Stella and Heineken. Palmer and Harvey experts were also on hand to show how retailers can create in-store theatre at home. The zone had promotional advice and new product development, including safety equipment so retailers can bring their spirits out from behind the till to increase their sales. A mixologist added theatre to the proceedings by talking visitors through the art of cocktail making and Bulmers unveiled its new berry cider.

Visitor to the show, local retailer Vip Panchmatia, said:”The alcohol zone was amazing this year – it felt like you were walking into a high-end bar, but it was all merchandising you could do in your own shop. I’ve got some great ideas about alcohol displays and how to cross promote my alcohol range with other categories, like crisps and ice-cream or create meal offers. It has definitely inspired me to do more.”

The chilled and fresh zone showed what retailers can do to make the most of the fastest growing category in convenience. Ideas for merchandising and promotions were showcased as well as new additions to the Palmer and Harvey range, including Rod and Ben’s soup and Food Partners’ new sandwich range. A chef from Arla Foods showed how easily Indian meals could be put together from items bought in a convenience shop.

Lee Marland, National Account Manager, Cadbury. “We had many great conversations with retailers this year, which was our main aim of attending the show”.

Palmer and Harvey’s new Fresh Express offer was also unveiled at the show, and more than 50 per cent of visitors sampled the range and learned about what it could offer them.  This new range includes category best-sellers such as sausage rolls and steak slices as well as luxury items including organic brown bloomers and filled doughnuts alongside hot drinks.

The largest ever Mace convenience and forecourt stores gave retailers a chance to see best practice in action and take home tips and suggestions for how to merchandise, stock and layout their store.

Speaking at the show, Mary Portas recommended independent retailers focus on service in order to beat the multiples. Portas’ words of wisdom came during a keynote speech, made to an auditorium packed with retailers.

The speech covered the specific forces affecting UK retailers today, as well as Portas’s tips for success. She took questions from the floor and was on hand to talk to retailers and suppliers with her trademark honesty and second-to-none retail knowledge.

Portas said: “If there is one thing that an independent can do better than a supermarket its service. Service is the new selling. Independent retailers need to be talking to their customers, finding out what they want and giving it to them. That’s how they can survive.”

Elsewhere at the show Levi Roots, celebrity entrepreneur and creator of the Reggae Reggae brand, showcased his range of Caribbean-inspired soft drinks on the Vimto stand, including Caribbean Crush and Fiery Root Ginger Beer, and shared his considerable business expertise with visitors.

Republic Technologies, supplier of Swan filters, papers, matches and requisites, unveiled its new rebrand and gave visitors the chance to meet Swan Yamaha rider Michael Laverty.

At the Gala Night Dinner, hosted by comedian Dominic Holland, Swan raffled a motorbike for Sweet Charity, a not-for-profit organisation that helps retailers in their hour of need and Save the Children. Over the two days of the show, £50,000 was raised for the charity.

Mary Portas’ chosen charity, Save the Children, was also presented with a cheque for £11,000 thanks to proceeds raised by the Gala Night Dinner and the motorbike raffle.

Matt Carter, business development manager, Birds Eye said:“2011s Pro-retail was as well executed as ever; having Mary Portas on board was a great coup and her advice went down well with show visitors.”

The 6,500 visitors to the show also had the chance to take up taster sessions of Mary Portas’ Guide to Successful Retailing masterclass, developed in collaboration with Skillsmart Retail and The National Skills Academy.

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