Fuller's wins waiting game

26 January, 2007

Fuller's beers are going back into the multiple specialist sector in deals with both Thresher Group and Majestic.

Until its demise in 2005, Unwins was the only specialist chain to stock beers from the London brewer, as Fuller's firm stance on pricing led to a lack of agreement with other specialist chains.

Fuller's Beer Company managing director John Roberts said the situation had changed after years of talks. "We sat back and waited for them to be slightly more reasonable," he said.

Off-trade director Bill Simmons added: "It's taken a long time to build up relationships. To take things forward with Majestic, we've been talking to them for five or six years."

Simmons said it was crucial to get the terms of the deal right, rather than rushing into agreements. He said: "The same was true with Thresher ... we hung on in there and continued our relationship with Thresher and managed to come to terms and to do some business."

Threshers has trialled London Pride in selected branches, and listings will be extended from April.

Fuller's also aims to increase its business with the cash and carry sector. Simmons said: "When the off-trade side of the business started, the concentration was on multiple grocers. Independent cash and carries have always demanded huge sums of money to stock the product, but the climate is changing. Over the past 18 months, we have dedicated one of our sales reps to this sector of the market, and we are starting to see growing interest."

Fuller's also wants to expand listings for Gales beers HSB, Festival Mild and Prize Old Ale. Swing Low bitter will be stocked at Waitrose in time for the Six Nations rugby tournament. "Gales is a big brand for us; the challenge is to realise that in the off-trade. There's a limit as to how many beers from Fuller's they will stock," said Roberts.

Simmons called for industry-wide action to build a closer relationship between brewers and independent retailers. "There's a lack of education from brewers to independents - it's something that has to be done with a united front. There needs to be a concerted effort from brewers to make sure they provide enough information."

It is 10 years since the brewery introduced its Take Pride ad campaign for London Pride, and it plans to roll out new versions of the ads later this year.

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