NFRN’s Greg Deacon on why independent retailers have proved to be a lifeline to their communities

5th June 2020
ACE took time out to speak to Greg Deacon – Chief Operating Officer for the NFRN to get a deeper understanding how the NFRN were working with Independent retailers since the Covid 19 challenges had began.

How have the NFRN members tackled the challenges that Covid 19 has presented? 

It has been extremely difficult for all. Many have had to close, many shortened hours and some increased everything they do including setting up new propositions like home delivery and providing safe in store shopping experience from scratch. Really is the good, the bad and ugly out there. We’ve seen incredible selfless acts by members to ensure they continue to serve the communities that rely on them, despite the risks they face every day. I believe this alone will ensure many new customers obtained will continue to rely on their retailer locally and wish to support them more so now than ever before.

How has the NFRN supported members during this challenging period? 

Firstly, we recognised the narrative was all about supermarkets and panic buying. Setting up Shop Local, Shop Little helped give the small shops a voice whilst encouraging shoppers to consume sensibly at the same time. We’re extremely grateful to all the publishers that supported us with advertising during this time and continue to do so.

We then set up supporting members with practical help and advice on a daily basis through our Covid page on Given the frequency of messages coming from Gov, we wanted to make this easy for members to understand and act upon. Then we wanted to protect the most vulnerable members Impacted due to Coronavirus with the launch of our Covid-19 Hardship fund.

We’ve raised over £220k with the support of NFRN, member and brands. So far we’ve paid out £74k to those that need it with average member receiving just over £1k.

How have independent retailers gone the extra mile to support their communities?

We’ve seen Independent retailers be a lifeline to their communities. Whether its care packages, providing home delivery throughout the day to the most vulnerable, providing products never sold before, greater communication & providing safe shopping practices. Indies have truly stood out and have been extremely agile during Covid. I’m confident this will be acknowledged or remembered by local communities throughout U.K. & ROI.

How have retailers been coping with the increased demand in Home News Delivered Magazines and Newspapers and which publishers offers have really worked well for consumers and members alike?

Whether it’s new deliveries formed or existing delivery rounds it’s been welcomed with terrific ‘above the line’ support from News publishers involved in ‘Deliver My Paper’ In particular. Equally though, the retailer has supported the demand by taking on more staff, canvassing and growing their home delivery network. The deliveries are helped right now with better and more consistent delivery time’s which is helping. Challenge will be as more shops open up, will this still be the case to the benefit of all in the supply chain? Otherwise we run risk of going back two steps in the delivered copy which has clear benefits to retailer, wholesaler and publisher.

What do you think the next six months look like for Independent retailers?

I believe we’re in for an exciting independent future with innovation, tech, customer service and experience being re-imagined in the channel. Overall the channel is up due to local customers having for the first time frequented their local shop due to lockdown restrictions and will continue to do so giving new habits formed. This I don’t foresee changing coming a lot coming out of lockdown due to customer behaviour and still restrictions in place.

Many have pivoted their businesses and ready for the new normal with home delivery apps, taking on new products & growing their networks as a result. Wining now and being prepared for the future. So many opportunities for members and independent retailers to capitalise on during this moment and convert the extra footfall and spend into a loyal customer moving forwards

What advice would you give to publishers looking to support the Independent retail sector?

I think the independent channel despite the challenges is in a strong position to grow sales, provide a great experience either over counter or home delivered and convert unknown into known to the benefit of all. We’ve already seen the impact of Covid & has made our nation of small shops as relevant as they have been for a very long time to both publisher and consumer.

Publishers should ensure distribution, service levels, marketing & reward is geared towards Independents that have supported your brands during the pandemic. Those that do will see greater support of their products and yield greater payback to them in the process, recognised by both retailer and consumer in the channel.


Ace would like to sincerely thank Greg for a a really helpful view of how our hard pressed independent retailers are rallying and going the extra mile for our readers at this difficult time.


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