01 May 1997

UNILEVER’S UK CHAIRMAN Niall Fitzgerald revealed that the Anglo-Dutch global giant is mulling radical alternative distribution plans for some of its personal products and food brands. Distribution channels under the microscope include the home-selling of personal care brands such as Calvin Klein and Elizabeth Arden, as well as direct-marketing to specialist food outlets and restaurants. Such a move would be driven by concern at the ever-increasing power of the big four supermarket chains. Explains Fitzgerald: 'In both foods and personal products, we are seeing the emergence of alternative channels to the consumer. Unless you are careful you will find yourself boxed-in to what is sold through a consolidating block of retail-ers. So we will look for ways to broaden the channels through which we can reach the consumer.' There is no shortage of funds to develop such channels: the Unilever corporate kitty is now awash with cash following the £5bn sale of its chemicals business to ICI earlier this month.