By The Drum, Administrator

August 27, 2003 | 8 min read

Paula Ketterer of Scotmid

It all seemed so easy when Dale Winton invited shoppers to go ‘wild in the aisles’, but as Scotmid has found out it’s not always so straightforward. Step in the retailer’s first ever marketing director to take the chain to the next level. Dave Hunter goes off his trolley with Scotmid’s new marketing boss Paula Ketterer.

It’s funny the places life can take you. How many of The Drum’s readers, I wonder, knew exactly where they were going to go and what they would be doing when they “grew up”? How many agency bosses had their futures perfectly planned from a young age? Life tends to take us in slightly different and unexpected directions as the years go by. Some more than others.

It’s pretty unlikely, for example, that, as Paula Ketterer started school in Virginia, just outside Washington DC, she would have known her path would lead to a senior marketing role in an Edinburgh-based company.

Life’s funny like that.

As the newly appointed head of marketing for Scotmid, Ketterer is responsible for all marketing initiatives for Scotmid, Semi-Chem and the group’s newest member, M&S (that’s M&S Toiletries, not Marks and Spencer). Previously retail marketing manager, Ketterer has been promoted as the company focuses on marketing as a key part of its business. Her remit focuses on raising the profile of the company’s stores and increasing footfall in a steadily more competitive marketplace.

Fortunately, retail marketing is something Ketterer knows well. After completing an MBA, she worked at international jeweller Signet before moving on to Optical Express, the optician chain owned by Scottish entrepreneur David Moulsdale. Different companies, different cultures. But both had a firm retail presence in highly competitive marketplaces, and both served to provide an invaluable education in the workings of retail.

Though the positions at these companies were in operations, Ketterer found that marketing was steadily creeping into her day-to-day work life.

She says: “My background’s been predominantly operations, but throughout my career I’ve always worked with marketing. I find that my background has actually given me a lot of advantages, for two reasons. One being that, because of the operational slant to it, I can relate more to the tactical side of marketing. And two, besides the practical side of it – the through-the-line, how it’s going to work in store and how it’s going to work in press – there’s the financial side of it. Because being responsible for profit and loss at different levels makes you more aware of whether you’re getting bang for your bucks. I think that’s certainly given me an advantage in the role.”

Initially being brought on board as commercial manager and then retail marketing manager, Ketterer maintains that the announcement of her new role reinforces the company’s stance on marketing.

“I think that our CEO has recognised that marketing is a very key part of his business,” states Ketterer. “I think he realises that, for all the astute accountancy you can have, if you’re going to drive the business further you’re going to have to market it.

“I think our company hasn’t traditionally been looked at in that way. We’re a top 50 company in Scotland, there’s no doubt about it. We’re a major employer. If you look at our books, they’re immaculate. But people don’t talk about us in a sort of marketing strategic sense. We’re now very confident that we want to take the business forward and we do want to shout about it.”

Part of this shouting has been a new positioning for Semi-Chem. While the company’s Scotmid-branded stores have formed a marketing alliance with the Co-op in Manchester, Semi-Chem has this year been establishing itself under a new light. Running with the strapline “Every Girl’s Best Friend”, a new advertising campaign has been created by The Union, which aims to give a distinct personality to the Semi-Chem brand. Semi-Chem is the largest division of the Scotmid group, consisting of over 100 stores throughout Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Ketterer explains: “We wanted to change direction with Semi-Chem and The Union came up with a new strapline and an idea, a concept, for what we were trying to deliver – which was that we wanted Semi-Chem to have a personality. And they came up with what we thought was appropriate for what we wanted to be, which was the strapline we’ve got now.

“We’re trying to create a personality for Semi-Chem. Something that people can relate to, something that was approachable, something that was likeable. Along with the strapline we looked for someone who could be the face of Semi-Chem, for lack of a better word. And we actually have someone now, whom we call Nicola. She’s got the kind of face that she could be anybody. She could be your sister, she could be your girlfriend, she could be your neighbour. She’s got a very approachable face, a very likeable, face.”

“Nicola” has so far appeared in a number of ten-second television commercials, with 20-second branding ads scheduled to be screened in autumn.

This new positioning and marketing push is a sign of the times. A drop in consumer spending has meant that every company in the marketplace is discounting. This is both good and bad for traditional discount companies such as Scotmid and Semi-Chem. As discounting becomes more “trendy”, it is also more competitive.

Ketterer says: “The environment right now, I mean, it used to be taboo to go to a discounter. If you got on Easyjet, you didn’t want anybody to know. And now it’s like people are proud, to the point that they will say ‘Oh, well, you’re a fool, you went on British Airways and paid two hundred quid and I only paid seventeen fifty.’ I think, historically, people didn’t want to shout about being a discounter and you certainly didn’t want anybody to see the bag – I think that’s gone. People expect it now, and the consumer’s a lot more savvy.

“McArthurGlen out in Livingston is a classic example. Yeah, people want designer products but they want them at discount prices. I think that’s something that has evolved over time, and I don’t see it abating at all. I think it’s going to continue.”

Scotmid also added another string to its bow last month with the acquisition of M&S Toiletries. The Scotmid group previously operated 180 stores between the Semi-Chem and Scotmid brands. This number has now been bolstered by the 30 stores M&S operates under its Basix and Krackers brands. M&S has a turnover of £94m and, in addition to the 30 stores, has two distribution centres in Livingston and Wakefield, in Yorkshire.

Ketterer explains the company’s plans for the new addition: “Well, right now we’re going to rebadge 11 of the 30 retail outlets to Semi-Chem before Christmas. Some of them we’re just going to review their performance over the coming months and others we’re actually going to continue to trade as 99p retailers, with an idea as to whether that price point is viable in the long term. The intention is to integrate the M&S stores with Semi-Chem.

“They’ve got 30 stores. Predominantly they are wholesale business, but the purchase of M&S is going to give us vertical alignment, basically. The 30 stores will add to our portfolio.”

The acquisition could also herald the beginning of an expansion south. At present, all the company’s stores are in Scotland and Northern Ireland but with a distribution centre south of the border the company could now be in a prime position to tackle the English market.

“Yes, actually the M&S purchase is going to be an opportunity to expand, it’s like a springboard for us,” explains Ketterer. “We’ve actually got distribution in Livingston, and also in Wakefield, and that’s going to give us the opportunity to expand further south. We know no boundaries.”

Growth is clearly on the mind of Scotmid’s new head of marketing, but it’s not something that she will achieve alone. Ketterer is keen to point out that the company works very closely with its marketing agencies, all of which are Scotland-based. Mediacom, Harrison Cowley and, of course, The Union, are regularly consulted about the company’s strategy and will have no small part to play as Scotmid moves forward.

With the day of the discount well and truly upon us, will Scotmid emerge as the most popular retail company in Scotland? Stranger things have happened. Life’s kind of funny that way.


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +