Rice Marketing are experts in retail and local marketing, founded by Stephanie Rice, former Marketing Director of Musgrave GB. Since 2007, she and her team have specialised in helping owners and Government grow sales in independent businesses, by over 15%, by offering expert retail advice and harnessing the power of local marketing.
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In 2008, Rice Marketing began working with independent retailer Vince Maloney to define his USP after the purchase of three corporate Budgens stores in Berkshire and Surrey.
Our starting point was measuring the positive impact he could have in his local communities by identifying and engaging with the true influencers, to understand the community needs and how best to serve them. Through inexpensive customer research coupled with cost-effective but innovative events, we identified what was missing from the current offer. By engaging and inspiring the store teams, we helped deliver the personal service expected from an independent retailer.
The result is that Maloney’s Budgens now sits at the heart of their communities. They have established a local Chamber of Commerce and supported several small producers in moving from the kitchen table to securing listings with major retailers. Our work has helped Maloney’s Budgens win several awards for their community engagement, including Business In The Community’s Santander Small Company of The Year Award. This work has created a genuine customer loyalty that has helped the stores fight local attrition and accounts for 5% of sales.
“I realised that a local USP was fundamental to my success and invested in the team at Rice Marketing to build this as a key differentiator against larger local supermarkets. They taught me how to truly understand the needs of my customers by challenging my thinking and offer, and connecting me with people whom I would never have thought would be a part of my local marketing plan. I have introduced fresh fish, meat and over 150 other products from local suppliers and created strong relationships with my local schools. I know that the strategic local marketing plan built by Rice Marketing has been a corner store for my whole business.”
Vince Maloney, Owner
Leading Budgens retailer, Guy Warner, lacked clarity on what form of marketing he should use to promote his newly acquired group of Budgens stores in The Cotswolds but was initially reluctant to appoint an external resources.
Rice Marketing helped create a true local identity for Warner’s Budgens using the key pillars of fresh and local food, sustainable support of children within the community and independent ownership. They conducted extensive stakeholder engagement with each community to understand how Guy could make the greatest long term impact on a modest budget. They also identified key local PR opportunities including the sponsorship of The Cotswold Food and Drink awards and partnerships with regional chef's restaurants.
The result was a blueprint for local marketing across all his stores, which is still in place today, and the launch of Warner’s Budgens Taste Club which has proven to be the most effective tool in their marketing tool kit. The marketing plan helped Guy win several leading industry awards - including IGD’s Unilever Social Innovation Award.
"Prior to working with RRM, we - as a business - lacked clarity on what form our marketing should take and whilst we clearly needed help, were cynical about using an external marketing company, not least because we had the ultimate vision to be self-sufficient in that regard.
That fear was unfounded, however, as RRM quickly helped us to identify our brand strengths and more critically took us on the journey of launching our loyalty programme, Warner’s Budgens Taste Club, which today forms the single most important and effective tool in our ‘marketing armoury’. Taste Club members spend on average 30% more per transaction than non-members and that, combined with the ability to pro-actively market to our customers, more than justifies the investment we made with the team at Rice.”Guy Warner, Owner
In 2013, Simply Fresh was developing at an unprecedented pace, driven by the passion and energy of owners. They instinctively understood their brand but did not have the time or expertise to articulate it to themselves, their management team, potential retailers or investors.
Our approach was clear and direct. We articulated all that Kash envisaged for his business and provided Simply Fresh with a consistent, clearly articulated strategy with a strong local marketing plan for the launch of a new concept store.
The report we delivered provided a firm basis for subsequent negotiations with Costcutter who then aligned their support for the brand where appropriate. This report constituted an 18-month plan for the business and is still in use today.
"Stephanie and her team were extremely professional throughout the project, and although we initially questioned whether we were ready for external support of this kind, the report they produced proved extremely beneficial to us in helping clarify our current position in the market, giving us the tools to build our future offer. We still use this document today, and it's proved to be of great value to us.”
Kash Khera, Managing Director, Simply Fresh
Central England Co-operative group needed to find a solution for how to drive local food in their stores. The existing offer was fragmented and poorly communicated and larger stores in particular needed a point of difference in a highly competitive market place.
We were engaged to define a fresh, local brand identity for the newly created Central England Co-operative. Over 18 months, we identified fresh produce as a drive category for the larger stores, and developed a new line called Pick of the Crop which focussed on seasonal and local produce. We inspired management teams to adopt our approach, resulting in a powerful leadership team to take the business into its next phase.
The hero category of 6 lines delivered incremental like for like sales to the overall produce department. Pick of The Crop is now part of all store refits, delivering additional turnover. The concept received excellent customer feedback and local press coverage. The format has now been developed for smaller stores and launched into concept store Quorn.
Over the following 9 months, we used the same blueprint which the team described as ‘ground-breaking’ to define a strategy for bakery and local foods for delivery in 2016/17.
“We engaged Rice Marketing to bring some real passion and expertise into our food team as we started our Central England Co-operative brand positioning for food in our local supermarket. It became clearly apparent early on in our working relationship that Rice Marketing are the "Trinny and Susannah" of food retail and they introduced me, my team and our business into new concepts, ideas, approaches that without their direction and consultation we would have overlooked.
The output of work together formed our new format supermarket look and feel, a newly designed regional and local product offer, a true category approach within our food team and above all a sense of passion, pride and achievement back into our food team, to be something different and better for our customers, colleagues, members and communities!
If you are thinking about a new approach in your business or to bring about real change in your product offer, give them a call!”Michael Spencer, Head of Food Retail
In 2010, Whistlestop was experiencing fierce competition from the likes of WHSMiths and several small format multiple convenience stores. Whistlestop urgently needed to revitalise its food to go offer in order to safeguard its position with Network Rail as a brand of choice for travel consumers.
Rice Marketing’s response was to launch a range of over 120 products from small and exciting British brands across all the major food and drink categories under our Quality from Small Producers brand. We worked closely with staff across the brand, engaging store managers to support the QSP brand and bringing the range to life through ‘Feelgood Friday,’ a comprehensive weekly sampling event as well as regular range reviews, promotions and newly-designed bright, attractive POS.
The QSP range resulted in an overall sales participation of 2% from nothing, without any loss to margin, bringing in £1.5m sales per annum. The brand became an integral part of the new concept at Waterloo and Victoria and established the Whistlestop brand as innovative and relevant to the travel consumer.
Tom Procter, Commercial Director, Alibi Drink
“QSP is a great initiative that really helped us get our foot in the door of some of the UK's top retail outlets. Working together as a collective makes a very attractive retail proposition.”
Palmer & Harvey is the biggest name in wholesaling but supported small, local retailers. They wanted to showcase 40 of the UK’s smallest, local suppliers by asking them to create a market within Pro-retail to show that they supported the little guy as well as larger FMCG companies. They did not have the relationships or the network to find these producers and asked us to find and deliver them to Pro-retail.
They approached us to help them in their mission. We set up a local village (or Farmers’ Market) at their Pro-retail show by bringing together over 40 independent producers of quality products. This started by identifying producers who were suited to the show and getting them set up with P&H so they could trade directly with customers at the show. We provided stories for their PR campaign and also ran a competition through social media to generate interest with the winners being given a guaranteed listing.
Our work at Pro-retail was a big success with the Local Village being considered the most successful element of the show. It generated great PR and delighted both retailers and producers alike. It extended the proposition for Central Billing suppliers and several of our small producers achieved major listings and subsequent national distribution.
In 2013 Rice Marketing worked with HIM Consulting and MD Tom Fender to carry out an external review of his marketing. HIM had just sold to William Reed, giving Tom the opportunity/necessity to review his current processes by bringing us in as a fresh pair of eyes.
Rice Marketing gave HIM a short, sharp shock. With our knowledge of HIM and their market place, we looked at how the new owners, William Reed Business Media and HIM could maximise each other’s strengths. We also reviewed their company and brand marketing – what they should be communicating, to whom and via what mediums.
In this way, HIM had a clear marketing strategy within 3 months, showing them how to build on their strengths and providing new thinking for their role in trade press, PR and social media; invaluable information for the newly appointed Shopper Insights Director.
" Stephanie is a senior industry figure which made it really easy for us to get a quick and yet insightful report on how we are doing, where we need to go and how we might get there. By talking to our clients, many of whom Stephanie knows, she was able to paint a picture that we completely recognised to be true but which we would not have had the time, head space or objectivity to see for ourselves. I would not hesitate to recommend her!"
In 2014 we began working with Newtrade Publishing and MD Nick Shanagher to lead the development of their marketing plan. They had conducted a review of their offer and needed someone to help them translate this into a clear action plan and guide them in its delivery.
Rice Marketing acts as a strategic Marketing support, working alongside the Exec team to create and communicate a clear brand positioning that delivers increased sales revenue and greater customer loyalty.
Newtrade now have an effective marketing team, a clear stadium pitch, a business plan that is aligned to their core strengths and a complete focus on the customer which has, in turn, delivered 15% sales growth.
"Stephanie Rice has been the architect of much of the positive change Newtrade has made in the past two years. Her marketing skills have helped our creative people to align their efforts and our better focus on delivering value to customers has paid off with 15% sales growth since we started working together.
Rice tells you how it is and her no-nonsense style is respected by my team and myself. Her ability to find the correct phrase to describe opportunities and threats works to cut through clutter to get to the opportunities faster.
Another great thing about Rice is her hands-on knowledge of the convenience channel. She is great in store and with suppliers, combining a genuine passion for the industry with a vision of how local independent businesses can succeed in the future. "Nick Shanagher
The Department of Health came to us with a brief to work in partnership with the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and major UK Symbol Groups to promote availability of fresh fruit and vegetables in deprived areas, managing a budget of £800k under the Change4Life brand. The challenge was to engage with independent store owners throughout England who had little or no experience of selling fresh fruit and vegetables and convince them of the advantages of doing just this.
Over a 3 year period, we researched the Healthy Living Programme in Scotland to design and develop a complete customer journey of POS, stands and chillers. We worked in partnership with NHS teams throughout England to produce local marketing campaigns to launch stores around a healthy eating theme, targeted at children.
We increased ranges by 60%, sales by 40% and with extensive media coverage significantly raised the profile of a small budget programme, culminating in visits to several stores by the Secretary of State for Health.
"The Change4Life scheme is a fantastic way of making it easier for people to get fruit and veg round the corner from where they live. Eating 5-a-day can make a real difference to people’s health. And shopkeepers win too. Stores involved in a pilot have seen on average an increase of 40 per cent in sales of fresh fruit and vegetables.
I am really pleased that the ACS has pledged to roll out the C4L programme to an additional 1,000 stores. This is brilliant news for local communities and people’s health, as well as for shopkeepers’ profits when times are quite difficult.”"Anne Milton, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
Tower Hamlets Council needed to understand their retail environment and to help independent shop owners and market traders grow their business, but lacked credibility and the skills to support them.
We were chosen from a competitive tender in 2009 because of our senior level retail expertise and have continued to work for the past 7 years across a number of different projects.
We apply our up-to-date experience in running a business when talking to hard-to-reach independent retailers and focus on developing great personal relationships with them. This allows us to overcome the initial reticence from minority traders because many of them have never had access to senior level business advice. We speak their language and are soon seen as a respected intervention.
Our support delivers sustained results as retailers grow and maintain their sales of fresh fruit and vegetables by 40% using our valuable advice in display, pricing, promotions and ranging. In addition, Tower Hamlets council receive valuable insight and a better understanding of their retail environment which helps them shape future direction and allows other interventions to be tested.
Tim Madelin - Healthy Environments and Communities, Senior Public Health Strategist, NHS Tower Hamlets
"Because Rice Marketing show traders how they buy and sell fruit and vegetables, they deliver a sustainable change. It’s not like a classic intervention service. They are really easy to work with and do not behave in the way of a large contractor. They are extremely pro-active in seeking out new partnerships where needed."