Managing business-to-business relationships with retailers makes up a large part of our trade marketing activities. We work with our retail partners to ensure that at all times they can offer the products our consumers want to buy, where they want to buy them, when they want to buy them, at the right price and quantity, and with the quality they expect.
We take pride in the fact that our customers rate us for the most part as a preferred business partner. We regularly survey our international customer base to benchmark our performance against our peer group within the FMCG industry overall and against our competitors in the tobacco category in particular. The results continue to place British American Tobacco as the best overall supplier in both.
For the third successive year in 2009, we were recognised in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index as the leading business in the tobacco category for Customer Relationship Management.
Key marketing channels
We make a special effort to understand and develop joint marketing programmes with our retail partners, who engage with our consumers in key market channels such as Global Travel Retail and Global Convenience Retail. With their enormous spread and reach, these strategic customers acknowledge British American Tobacco as a partner of choice and, during 2009, we received several accolades from the trade organisations operating in these marketing channels.
Direct store sales
Where appropriate, we believe that direct to store sales, or DSS, is the most effective way of serving customers and building sustainable business partnerships. DSS gives us visibility and control over the sales and distribution process and allows us greater access to both the market and consumer information. It also provides a direct commercial link to our most strategic retail accounts.
During 2009, the proportion of our total volume distributed through DSS reached 50 per cent for the first time.