Unitas shares 2020 vision

Darren Goldney

More than 320 delegates attended the first Unitas Wholesale conference recently to hear the wholesale services group set out its plans for the coming year.

The conference, held in Vilamoura, Portugal from 16 to 20 September 2019, was attended by more than 130 different member and supplier businesses.

“Since our creation in November 2018, we have committed to delivering efficiency and effectiveness for both members and suppliers, and we’re delighted that this event, with its firm focus on contact and collaboration, has delivered both,” said Darren Goldney (pictured), the Unitas Managing Director.

As part of the formal business presentations, delegates heard how 2018 was a time of consolidation and transition, with Unitas setting out its aim to be a sustainable, first-choice business partner.

Unitas has spent 2019 streamlining the business – creating one point of contact, one event programme, one central payment system, one digital platform, one promotional programme and one core range scheme – to ensure lower operational costs and more efficient processes and reinvestment.

“For 2020, our plans are ambitious,” said Goldney. “We’re continually looking at new ways to drive up sales and profitability for both members and suppliers. Our plans for 2020 include some really innovative changes in retail. We’re expanding the scale of Plan for Profit and introducing new initiatives, such as Picture Portal, which are dramatically improving promotional execution.”

Plan for Profit, the core range guide, has been rolled out across the whole retail business. Made up of more than 850 SKUs of the leading brands, Plan for Profit provides independent retailers with stock advice, supported by sales data and insight. This is communicated to retailers via a printed guide, the app and online, plus featured products are clearly signposted in depot. JW Filshill will adopt the scheme across its store estate in 2020.

Picture Portal execution launched earlier this year to drive day one through-the-line promotional execution both for business-to-business and business-to-consumer promotions. Unitas identifies key supplier promotional lines and transmits execution evidence requests to members. Optimisation champions in member depots then capture images of day one execution and upload them via the web-based Picture Portal app.

“We know that this initiative will benefit our members enormously as day one execution helps capture sales and encourages our partners to offer us the best activity,” said Goldney. “Picture Portal execution is a great example of how technology can facilitate a group of individual members to come together demonstrating execution via a common platform and enables us to compete on a level playing field with national operators.”

Other retail plans include continuing with the Day-Today, Today’s and Lifestyle Express fascias, which equate to more than 1,000 UK stores, with plans to recruit an additional 120 stores per year. A new retailer magazine will launch in January 2020 to support retailers.

Unitas is also developing a ‘box out’ service pilot which is a way for retailers to access NPD or key missing products without risk, while getting new products to consumers in a fast, effective way and meeting supplier objectives. Unitas plans to work with four non-competing suppliers on a monthly basis and send selected retailers a selection of NPD they can then trial in stores.

“This is a great, cost-effective platform for faster on-shelf presence,” said John Kinney, Retail Director for Unitas. “Retailers can trial NPD in store without any financial outlay and if it’s a success, they will then buy direct from their wholesaler completing an efficient journey of distribution, trial and repeat purchase.”