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 retailers. 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.