The big buyers: Confex

How the top buying groups are driving sales and profits.

Tom Gittins, business development manager, Confex
Buying groups: Confex
How have you worked with members to grow their sales in the past 12 months?

We still have no joining fee or annual fees and have strengthened our grocery, alcohol and non-food supplier base over the past 12 months by taking on 14 new suppliers and delivering more than 1,600 promotions. We have the largest member base of any buying group and we work with 217 suppliers, covering all product categories across foodservice and retail.

How have you developed your business in the past year?

We have extended the range available via Confex Central Distribution – a service that allows members to order mixed pallets across 30 suppliers, buying at wholesale prices. It also offers members a full promotional programme.    

What’s been the biggest development at Confex recently?

We’ve taken on a digital asset manager to further develop customisable marketing and promotional literature for our membership. This service is heavily subsidised for members and allows them to compete on a level playing field with national wholesalers without the need for six-figure marketing budgets.

What major challenges are you facing?

Competition in wholesale is more intense than ever, with the rise of e-commerce and the transparency of pricing it brings. We work to ensure that members have the tools to remain competitive.

Fast facts

£1.73bn Buying power

304 members

90% of members are delivered wholesalers

Established 1972

Latest member: Ouseburn Trading

1,200+ own-label lines

How do you plan to develop your portfolio over the next six months?

We are planning to take on six more suppliers add Central Distribution. These will be brands with which we have trading agreements in place but it will help to fill distribution gaps. We are also developing our own-brand offering.

What development opportunities are there for wholesalers?

Confex members have seen good growth in the cost sector over the past two years. Due to the government’s austerity measures and the  increased importance put on ‘food miles’ and ‘food provenance’, the local wholesaler is now able to win contracts with schools, hospitals and other public services.

What are the most important trends in the market?

E-commerce and the continual developments in technology. It will be interesting to see if Amazon can crack wholesale – I believe it won’t be competitive but it may give Costco a run for its money.

What trends will drive the market in the next six months?

Soft drinks legislation being implemented will affect sales in the next six months. Laws are changing as to where and how much can be sold to children, and it will be interesting to see how the brand owners respond to maintain market share.

What advice do you have for wholesalers looking to grow sales or improve business management?

Look at every aspect of your business and see where efficiencies can be made. We run a Green Wholesaler Awards programme and the winners for the past three years have saved considerable costs when adopting a more ‘sustainable’ approach to their business practices. 


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