Automatic Retailing

The Toughest Job In The Place? Meet Lisa, Our New Transport Manager

If you’ve been working with us for any length of time, you’ll appreciate that, at every opportunity, we like to boldly go where we’ve never been before. So, when the chance arose for us to hire our first female Transport Manager we didn’t flinch.

Of course, the fact that Lisa Franklin, (for it is she), was head and shoulders the stand-out candidate rather took the risk out of the boldly-going.

When the vacancy arose, we made a conscious decision to bring in some new ideas by making an external appointment. We were offering ‘a good job’ and consequently, the HR in-tray was soon overflowing with twenty-ish applications. Right from that initial stage, Lisa’s credentials singled her out.

Out of all the applicants invited to a first interview, Lisa’s vast experience raised our eyebrows and when we invited her back she just blew us away with her attitude, knowledge and happy persona. But we were a little bit concerned: you see, all our drivers are lads and all the lads in the warehouse are, er… lads.

They have ‘a language all their own’, you might say, but thanks to her previous job at Owen Pugh, a North East firm most commonly associated with plant-hire, haulage and earth moving, she won’t be unfamiliar with it.

So, she’s equipped and ready to take on what we believe is just about the toughest job in the place. Apart from dealing with the aforementioned lads, it’ll be Lisa’s responsibility to keep our fleet of trucks legal, to make sure they’re all serviced and MOTd; to keep the customers clued-up with due times and inform them of any delays or other issues and to control the routing and deal with outside hauliers. We’ve twenty vehicles of our own, but such are the demands on us that we have to bring in external resources as and when we need them. And that takes some managing…

What’s more, in the New Year when she’s settled in and the Christmas rush is over, we’ll be helping her through her CPC license.

So, be prepared for a new-broom with a wealth of experience and a quiver full of fresh ideas. We’re expecting Lisa Franklin to shake things up and make the best in the business even better.

Good luck, Lisa.



In Vending? Ferrero Means Business

Elsewhere in this edition of ‘The Extra Mile’, we tell the story of Pladis and in particular, how that company’s business in the vending sector has flourished since they appointed a dedicated National Accounts Manager. It’s a story of a successful partnership that, 12 months in, has delivered substantial success for Pladis and – or course – for ARN.

Well, here’s another story that has a similar first chapter – and we’ve every reason to believe that it’ll have the same happy ending…

For the first time, chocolate giant Ferrero has appointed a National Account Manager For Vending. Craig Howard comes on board after two years at Mondelez, where he established some substantial relationships within the vending industry.

It’s his job to bring a fantastic portfolio of household name brands, such as Nutella, Kinder, TicTac and Ferrero Rocher, to the UK’s vending machines. It’s our job to help him do it.

The good news is that we’ve hit the ground running. Kinder Bueno is growing in vending at 27%* year on year, in a category that’s down 5%** in the same period. That’s a real incentive for vending operators to take a closer look. Between you and us, we don’t think the company will rest until it’s made Kinder Bueno the Number One chocolate in vending machines.

And whilst the current focus is on the Bueno brand, new lines are on the horizon and you’ll get to sample some of them at AVEX.

Although Ferrero has exhibited previously at Vendex, this will be the company’s first visit to the UK’s most important vending event . It’s a sign that, when it comes to vending, Ferrero means business, and the only place to get your supplies of these exciting, fast-moving products? You’ve guessed it: ARN.


* Source: Ferrero Sales Figures
** Source: Nielsen



Pladis And ARN: A Vending Partnership That Takes The Biscuit

We’ve often said that when a company decides to dedicate expertise and resources specifically on the vending market, it gets its just rewards…

A case in point is Pladis, the company we knew for many years as United Biscuits. Around a year ago, Pladis took the plunge and appointed a National Account Manager for Vending.

The new recruit was Rick Dinsmore and he joined the biscuits giant from Pepsico, an organisation that, we’re sure you’ll agree, knows a thing or two about vending. Rick wasted no time in getting to know everybody at ARN, especially John Crichton and his field-based sales team. Consequently a sustained and coordinated campaign of networking and presentations to vending’s key buying organisations began, encompassing Cover Group, Wise Group and the AVS, to name but a few.

‘It’s a strategy that has paid dividends in a spectacular way’, ARN MD Allan Walker said. ‘Before Pladis created the NAM Vending position and Rick arrived on the scene, it’s fair to say that we didn’t really have a relationship with them. Last September, they changed their business model and it’s fair to say that since then, sales of Pladis products and in particular Mini Cheddars and Crinklys have gone through the roof.’

Of course, no amount of sales pitches and networking will make any difference if the products on offer are non-starters: but when top-quality brands are the focus of those efforts, the results are stunning. It’s as though somebody said ‘abracadabra’!

Pladis tells us that vending now represents ‘a huge chunk’ of total UK sales for the 50gm version of Mini Cheddars. It’s an ideal product for vending operators. Customers see the product as great value: the pack weight, when compared with other snack products, is generous and the price is right. Best of all, Mini Cheddars is a product that’s exempt from VAT.

What’s not to like?

The bottom line is that since the company decided to concentrate on vending, ARN has sold upwards of 175,000 cases of Pladis product and the graph shows that sales continue to head north towards 250,000 by the end of 2017 . In fact, a full two pages of our latest ‘offers’ flyer is dedicated to Mini Cheddars, Crinklys, Jaffa Cakes and the rest. What’s more, with Pladis making is debut at AVEX this month, sales might well accelerate even more…

Make sure you – and your customers – don’t miss out on these burgeoning brands.





ARN Continually Supports The Vending Industry – And Its Main Events

Hello again

 Make sure you come and see us on Stand 400 at AVEX. My colleagues and I will be on hand to walk you through some interesting and exciting products – many of which are exclusive to ARN. I’m looking forward to renewing acquaintance with an awful lot of old faces and hopefully, a few new ones, too.


Did you know that AVEX is the oldest trade show dedicated to vending in Europe? It’s true, and I think I’ve been to every one of them. At any rate, this will be the sixth AVEX in which ARN has taken part. That makes us one of the oldest exhibitors at the oldest show.

In that time, we’ve seen a lot of people and a lot of businesses come and go, but good old ARN? We’ve become a fixture of the event and rightly so.

…the sixth AVEX in which ARN has taken part.

You see, we have a real passion for vending and when you think about it I reckon you’ll agree that we’ve never passed up a chance to support, or to give something back to the industry we love.

With age, comes experience. There’s no wholesaler that knows more about the vending operators of the UK. We aim to look to promote your successes as well as providing solutions to assist in overcoming challenges that, at times, we all might face. We’ve seen many of the country’s leading figures grow up in the business and emerge as stalwarts of the industry.

There’ll be no gimmicks on our stand at AVEX. In fact, you may well think that it’s ‘same old, same old’ and in some ways, you’d be right.

Our vending experts will be on hand to provide exactly the kind of advice you need to ensure your vending machines deliver maximum sales and maximum profit in the months and years ahead. We’ll be showcasing an all-new vending healthy options sheet as well as some terrific new products and we’ll be giving you the low-down on the brand support that you can tap into to drive even more business through your machine park.

We’ll be telling the same old story, because it’s true: we’ve got the most extensive range of products available in the industry, for the industry.

I’m sure you’ll make a point of coming to see us on Stand 400 – old habits die hard, after all – and I promise you here and now that once again, you’ll come to the conclusion that ARN remains the Number One choice for all your vending needs. I can promise you something else, too: we fully intend to keep it that way.

Well that’s it, I’ve said my piece and I’ll see you down at the NEC. In lots of ways, it’ll be just like old times. Thanks for reading, and think-on: if there’s anything we can help you with, get in touch at or contact us on the familiar old number: 0191 238 0400.

Meanwhile, back to work.

Gan canny


John Crichton



Internal Sales? You’re Having A Laugh!

Internal Sales at ARN is a department that thrives on teamwork and humour or – put another way – on really cheesy jokes. Yes, ghastly gags run through our Customer Service team like Brighton runs through rock and our Tuesday morning meetings are always accompanied by corny comedy groans...

Pictured: Louise Bloomfield, Jackie Gorman; Rachael Jackson, Anthony Hall; Claire Toner, David Tait and Lyndsey Baxter.

When you pick up the phone or send us an e-mail, you’ll connect directly to a member of our Internal Sales team. So, we thought you might be interested to find out just what goes on in this very busy office. What’s more, we wanted to give you the opportunity to put faces to names, so you can see exactly who you’re dealing with.

Here we go then: and don’t say we didn’t warn you…


Lyndsey Baxter: Sales Coordinator. Lyndsey maintains an overview of the whole shebang and it’s her job to see that everything possible is done to ensure our service improves constantly, to meet the changing requirements of you, our customer.

Lyndsey’s laughing at:
‘What do you call cheese that isn’t yours….Nacho cheese!’


Claire Toner: Assistant Sales Coordinator. Claire is to Lyndsey what Watson is to Sherlock! She joined us 6 months ago and her stock in trade is ‘facts and figures’. She undertakes the ‘methodical stuff,’ which used to drive Lyndsey ga-ga. Claire also feeds information to both suppliers and customers; she analyses performance and evaluates promotions and if you need proof of delivery or a copy invoice, she’s your knight in shining armour.

Claire’s laughing at:
‘What kind of cheese do you use to disguise a small horse….Mascarpone’


Louise Bloomfield: Sales Order Processing Office Manager. 12 years into her career at AR, Louise heads-up a team of 4 in customer service. When you give us your feedback- good or not so good – it’s Louise who records it on AR’s CRM system. She also liaises with our Transport and Warehouse departments when we receive an urgent order. In a nutshell, she keeps everything running smoothly.

Louise is laughing at:
‘Did you hear about the explosion at the cheese factory …..There was de brie everywhere!’


Anthony Hall: Senior Sales Order Processor. Anthony’s also been with us for 12 years. In fact, he and Louise both started as temps within a few weeks of each other and (thank goodness) both stayed on! Anthony’s main duties are in customers service, processing orders and reporting. Let’s just say his role is a little bit varied: in fact, Lyndsey, Claire, Louise and Anthony watch each other’s backs to make sure nothing slips under the radar and no customer is ever left high and dry.

Anthony’s laughing at:
‘Which cheese would you use to coax a bear down from a tree…Camembert!’


Jackie Gorman: Sales Order Processor. Jackie will soon clock up 6 years with us. You won’t speak to her on the phone, because she has hearing difficulties. Jackie’s a complete keyboard wizard: she spends all day – every day – inputting your orders into the system and she pummels her keyboard so hard and so fast for so long that we’ve had to get her a replacement three times. Where would we be without her? It doesn’t bear thinking about…

Jackie’s laughing at:
‘Why was the cheesemonger’s lopsided? Because they only had one stilton!’


David Tait: Sales Order Processor. David joined 18 months ago. He has a call centre background with Orange / EE, where he was identified as something of a star to be trained up for higher things… Fortunately for us, we get the benefit of his brilliance! He really is up there with the best of them and we’re delighted to have him on board, looking after the online side of things. Not that he’s a geek at all, mind…

David’s laughing at…
‘A kid threw a lump of cheddar at me, I thought: ‘that’s not very mature!’


Rachael Jackson: Sales Order Processor. Rachael’s another relatively new recruit, having been with us for almost exactly a year. Her role is similar to David’s: she’ll speak to you on the phone or take your order from the web site. On top of that, she makes sure any feedback you provide is acted upon.

Rachael’s laughing at:
‘What does the cheese say when it looks in the mirror? Hello me (halloumi).’



It’s Your One-Stop Shop

Since more and more of your orders arrive via the Internet, we’ve been able to develop our sales office. It’s a one-stop-shop for you, our customer, whatever your requirements may be. So for instance, if we don’t have a product you want, the team will inform our buyers. Likewise, if you want to notify us of a change of address, or get through to Accounts to clarify your bill; these wonderful people are your first port of call. Not only that: they’ll tell you what’s on promotion at any given time; they’ll jog your memory if you’ve not re-ordered a product you’ve sold successfully before and they’ll fill you in on new products and best sellers.

Lyndsey Baxter

‘It’s a very positive environment to work in’, Lyndsey said. ‘Everybody has embraced the concept of continuous improvement and although they’re a varied lot they’re all friendly, helpful and chirpy. In fact, they’re all bloody lovely!’ And, just for once, Lyndsey’s not laughing…


When your orders arrive in full and on schedule, it’s not by magic!

PICTURED: The new boys with Team Leader Chris, aka Mr. Crisps.
So, when your business expands, how do you make sure that there’s no compromise on customer service?

We’ve been growing like Topsy in recent months and to make sure we maintain our industry-leading service, we’ve done two things. Firstly, we extended the working hours of our warehouse. We used to knock-off at 6 o’clock but now, we’re grafting until 8pm.

Secondly, we expanded our team by hiring 5 new staff members and we’re proud to say that each of our newcomers is a local lad in his early twenties. Some of them were part-timers who’ve gone full time, but others were previously unemployed.

Getting better, growing stronger…

So we can safely say that we’re doing our bit for the local economy here in the north-east. There’s a lot of people out of work in our region, especially when you compare it to the south east of England, so there’s no shortage of people looking for work.

It must be said though, that Automatic Retailing Northern is in a particularly strong position when it comes to recruitment. We’ve got an enviable reputation for being a good employer in our neck of the woods and there’s hardly a day goes by without another CV arriving, in the post or in person, from a job-seeking hopeful.

It means we can hand-pick people whom we’re sure will bring the skills, the temperament and the attitude that will add to our team. We don’t do ‘bad apples’.

So, when your next order arrives in full and on schedule, it’s not by magic. It’s because, as the old song has it, ‘we’re getting better, growing stronger.’ Not to mention, ‘getting bigger’!




Problems Or Opportunities? Either Way, We’re In Pole Position To Help Our Customers

Hello again!

At Automatic Retailing, we can do a lot more for our customers than just fulfil their orders. We can help them to turn ‘problems’ into ‘opportunities’ and ‘opportunities’ into ‘gilt-edged commercial advantages’.

Let me explain by looking at two topics that are hot potatoes for vending operators right now – the potential that’s incumbent in the digital age and the forthcoming Sugar Tax.

At the risk of you falling off your seat when you read this, I reckon digital screens on vending machines are just about the most important development we’ve seen in our sector since Adam was a lad. I know that’s rich coming from a bloke who, until recently, didn’t know his WhatsApp from his elbow, but think about it: until now, when were vending operators able to communicate with, (or advertise to), their customers, right there at point of sale?

OK, we’ve had promotional decals on machines for donkey’s years; but screens that can broadcast video in sparkling HD? That’s something altogether new and exciting. Having this capacity to advertise at point of sale isn’t just a huge plus for operators; it’s brilliant for the brand owners, too. That’s why many Big Names in FMCG are choosing to test new products in the vending channel. It’s very, very cost effective, compared with the old ways of doing things.

Years ago, when a Big Name was launching something new, they’d choose a TV region such as Granada, Yorkshire or Tyne-Tees; they’d run an advertising campaign and (to show retailers how serious they were), they’d advertise in The Grocer, extrapolating their regional investment into what was called a ‘national equivalent spend.’ (Usually in the millions). If the test launch was a success, they’d follow it up with a national roll-out of the product.

They don’t have to do it that way any longer. Alternatively, they can choose to test the waters nationally, via vending machines. Instead of mega-expensive TV air-time, they can run their glossy commercials right there, on your screens; in front of hungry (or thirsty) customers who are ready to make an on-the-spot purchase.

It’s not just advertising either: the ‘digital revolution’ has enabled some canny operators to introduce dedicated apps and loyalty programmes, to attract new, tech-savvy vending customers and what’s more, to keep them. I think that’s brilliant.

Some operators are ahead of the game, others have their toes in the water; the rest are playing catch-up. Whichever category you fall in to, we’re in pole position to help you make the most of the opportunities the digital era brings. That’s because we have very close relationships with both the brands and you, our customer. For want of a better expression, we can act as ‘match-makers’.

As for the Sugar Tax, which comes into force on 18th April next year, I can tell you from my meetings up and down the country that it’s a major worry for lots of vending operators. They don’t really know how the levy will impact on their sales or their profitability.

Once again, we’re in pole position to help you navigate into this New World. We’ve been working very closely with UK’s leading drinks manufacturers, both to understand what the impact of the tax will be and to get a clear picture of the new-wave of products that are being introduced to counter it.

Now’s the time to be testing these new products. You don’t have to wait until the levy lands: why not begin to introduce them now; get them established before the tax axe falls? We’re ‘in the know’, we have the knowledge to advise you as you plan your strategy.

You don’t have to wait until the levy lands…

All things considered, it means that these are very busy times for all of us at Automatic Retailing. Me and the lads are pulling out all the stops to get round our customers, so we can advise them on what’s hot and what’s not; and reassure them that, despite the changes, this is not the end of vending as we know it!

I know it sounds glib because you hear it said so often, but we really do see Automatic Retailing as a partner of our customers, not just a supplier to them. And why not? After all, if our customers are doing well, we’re doing well.

Thanks for reading, and think-on: if there’s anything we can help you with, get in touch at or contact us on 0191 238 0400.

Meanwhile, back to work…

Gan canny

John Crichton