Trade comment from Russell Johnston

General manager of PRL In-Market Solutions, Russell Johnston, talks to Neighbourhood Retailer about the challenge and opportunities that lie ahead for the business in 2019

“2018 was a record breaking year for PRL In-Market Solutions (NI) in many respects, having a record turnover, being involved in some of the biggest product launches in Europe and being recognised by Industry peers.

“While 2018 proved challenging in terms of low unemployment levels, resulting in more challenges finding the right staff in both permanent and contract roles, it drove home the importance of finding the right recruitment partner for businesses. This helped embed our Recruitment Service into our existing clients and opened the door to many new clients throughout the year resulting in a strong 2018 performance.

“With the ever changing face of high street retail moving towards the internet and retail experience, 2018 saw PRL constantly upskilling and retraining our field engineers and installers to move towards installing technology driven retail displays and experiences as opposed to the more traditional cardboard secondary displays. This has driven us to grow our preventative maintenance offering as these permanent stands often need updated and maintained to ensure the consumer experience is at its optimum level.

“Northern Ireland’s convenience and impulse stores have traditionally been ahead of the curve versus GB in terms of services and the retail experience. 2018 saw further advances in this channel with the main players in NI introducing new concept stores and pushing the boundaries of a traditional neighbourhood store.  At PRL this has given us the opportunity to drive sales for our FMCG Clients through ensuring their core range is on shelf, maximising promotions, gaining secondary display and driving distribution of NPD, all of which are a major factor in increase their sales in C&I.

“The favourable exchange rate for ROI shoppers benefited retail in Northern Ireland to the tune of €458m in 2018. With the uncertainty around Brexit, the pound suffered dramatically resulting in bargains to be had in NI on alcohol, cosmetics, food and groceries, medicines, clothes, footwear, and sports goods, as well as fuel, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

“Our biggest Client Project of the year was with Diageo and the launch of Rockshore Irish Lager. We installed over 1,800 taps in outlets throughout Ireland and helped bring In outlet theatre with POS and Glasswear. We also completed sampling and customer feedback of the product throughout the grocery channel in NI, helping Rockshore to become the fastest growing beer in the Irish market.

“In October we were recognised by our industry peers in the UK & Ireland Field Marketing Awards with a number of gold awards for our work in the field and our customer marketing projects with Custodian. Crucially we were awarded the Silver Award for the Best Field Marketing Agency in the UK & Ireland, despite only operating in Ireland at this point!

“This recognition has helped to secure our first move into the GB Market with a new team of retail installers covering GB from the start of March 2019. We are extremely proud that our work in Ireland has been recognised as trusted and best in class. Our intentions are to grow our offering in GB over the coming years and this is a first crucial step.

“2019 is an exciting year for us despite the current uncertainty over Brexit and Stormont. Our launch into GB and development of technology to help retailers are two important steps forward for us and we will continue to all in our power to put our client’s products in danger of being sold throughout the UK and Ireland.”

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