With the country remaining mired in economic turmoil, the day to day business of taking goods from suppliers and selling them to retailers has never been more challenging, as SLR found out when it spoke to some of the key players in Scotland.
by Kevin Scott
They are the link between suppliers and stores, and to that end it is impossible to exaggerate the role that wholesale and cash and carry plays in the convenience sector. Without them, there is no convenience industry.
While relationships between wholesale companies and their customers are amicable, relationships between wholesalers and suppliers can occasionally be somewhat fractious. Existing off the back of notoriously small margins, cash and carrys are constantly striving to get the best possible price, so they can in turn offer retailers the best possible deal. It’s a complicated three-way relationship but keeping it healthy is what lets Scotland’s local retailers give their customers the experience they’ve become renowned for.
Knowing which cash and carry to use is the tricky bit and like consumers, retailers often shop around for the best deals. If you run a shop in the central belt, the chances are there are occasions where visiting United Wholesale Grocers is part of your routine.
The company is a family run wholesale business that has a large number of retail members operating under the Shopsmart fascia. UWG is one of the leading cash and carry companies in Scotland with two depots in Glasgow – and ambitious plans in place to expand this into a network that allows retailers from across Scotland to use UWG branches to fill their shelves.
Managing Director Amaan Ramzan says: “Out philosophy is to continue to grow a profitable family business which cares for both customers and staff and which recognises the importance of their development. We understand that our future depends absolutely on out customers’ success. Therefore, we endeavour to continuously ensure that we are offering customers the very best opportunity to run a better business with the best profits.”
To ensure that it is meeting the demands of retailers the company also started providing fruit and veg in recent months, to reflect recent trends in convenience retail.
UWG first launched the Shopsmart fascia back in 2005. This was fully rebranded in 2010 and has gone from strength to strength. Ramzan says: “Shopsmart gives retailers a chance to improve the image of their store while retaining their independence. We are extremely please that the Shopsmart symbol group has been recognised as one of the most attractive, active and fastest growing symbol groups in the UK. We are immensely proud of our hard earned reputation for being one of the most professional cash and carry operators in the industry and we work hard to maintain it.”
Across on the other side of the city, JW Filshill has been busy too. The wholesaler and cash and carry company has launched a new Epos system designed to save its retailers customers both time and money, help them run their businesses more cost-efficiently and, crucially, maximise sales opportunities.
The bespoke system, called Re-Scan, is available free of charge to all of JW Filshill’s KeyStore and independent customers. It incorporates promotional hosting, retail price management, and can also incorporate stock and ordering functions to allow retailers to capitalise on the profit opportunity that results from running their businesses more efficiently.
Two levels of Re-Scan are available, depending upon the specific requirements of the store.
Managing Director Simon Hannah says: “Over the last few years we have worked hard at building relationships with our suppliers and sharing information is very much part of that process. “Using the data provided by our Re-Scan retailers, we will be able to negotiate for stronger promotions on their behalf. This, in turn, is of benefit to the consumer because it means shoppers have access to the keenest promotions on the products they buy regularly in their local convenience store.”
Moving to a nationwide scale, and many retailers across Scotland have been heard to utter the phrase “I’m just going down to Booker.” Under the stewardship of Charles Wilson the company has stunned the financial world with its continued growth. Last month it posted another positve set of results with like-for-like sales up 4.4%.
Charles Wilson says: “Booker Wholesale and Booker Direct have had a good start to the year. We’re confident that once we have clearance from the competition authorities, Booker and Makro will be able to improve choice, prices and service for retailers and small business in the UK. Makro will prove a good addition to the Booker Group.”
Mentoring the future
Like every company, wholesalers have to nurture those who will be running the industry in the future and to help companies like UWG and JW Filshill continue to operate the way they do, the The Scottish Wholesale Association is inviting applications from prospective mentees and mentors for its innovative, new Mentoring Programme. With an aim of improving the skills of emerging talent in the industry, individuals currently working in the key areas of buying, sales and management are eligible to apply and, if successful, will be assigned a mentor.
Crucially for employers, the Mentoring Programme is being structured around the needs of the business so will happen within the workplace. It has been carefully designed to allow individuals to realise their own capabilities and potential, so matching people with a suitable mentor forms a critical part of the process.
Mentoring will cover a 12-month period after which candidates will have the opportunity of starting to work towards a professional qualification via the SWA’s Training Programme.
Batleys set to recognise Scottish retailers
Over the last few years one company that has crossed the radar of Scottish retailers is Bestway, which operates the Batleys chain in Scotland – as well as Martex food service business. Having announced itself with the acquisition of Bellevue last year, and on the growth of its fascia Best-one, the company has announced there will be a special award for Scottish retailers at its development awards in London this month. The Best Retailer in Scotland award will come under the company’s Batleys banner. The awards dinner is being held at Grosvenor House, Park Lane on Thursday October 11th and we’ll be reporting on the winner next month.