BW: What is Confex’s USP?
Tom Gittins: Confex is the only group that does not ask wholesalers to pay joining or membership fees. We are always open to new members, as this will help us to grow and in turn leverage better deals for everyone.
We also offer a unique members-only central distribution facility. This enables members to buy mixed pallets at supplier-direct pricing across 48 supplier portfolios and over 10,000 stock-keeping units. This helps members to overcome the barriers to opening up a direct supplier account, such as prohibitive minimum-order requirements, while also helping to alleviate any cash flow issues caused by having to hold excess stock.
What has been Confex’s most significant achievement over the past 12 months?
Last year saw our fastest growth since we started in 1972. We ended the year with a group turnover of £2.76bn, which was up 3% from £2.68bn in 2016. Our top 30 suppliers all showed double-digit growth and we have welcomed a record 19 new members.
How has Confex expanded and attracted new members over the past 12 months?
We have seen growth across a number of categories, from grocery to chilled, and from soft drinks to frozen. Our USP is the diversity of the 227 suppliers with which we deal, along with the number of member businesses we have – 238. This diversity drives our growth year-on-year by helping existing members to diversify into new product areas, while also attracting new members with the breadth of suppliers with whom we have deals in place.
What category support do you provide to members?
We have a detailed online resource for members that offers pricing and promotional details across our portfolio of suppliers. Members have access to a full library of product images and can view promotional plans for the year ahead, to enable planning for seasonal fluctuations.
We are also leading the industry in communication with members, thanks to our weekly e-newsletter, which offers industry news and market reports. We also have a social media ‘reach’ of more than 500,000.
What are Confex’s plans to help its members over the next 12 months?
With 89% of us now having access to smartphones, digital is undoubtedly driving the way we now purchase. To take advantage of this, Confex will be the first buying group to offer a free member app.
Now in development, with a launch date of next month pencilled in, this end-user app can be customised in order to each member’s business needs and used to sell to its customer base on any digital platform.
What are the biggest challenges for Confex members over the next 12 months?
The economy is still in flux thanks to the continuing ‘unknown’ that is Brexit. Along with consumer confidence still being shaky, the wholesale channel is seeing more upheaval than ever before.
More change is undoubtedly ahead on both macro and micro levels, and it is Confex’s role as a buying group to ensure our members remain prepared, while giving them the tools for growth to succeed.
Number of members
Group buying power
- Millennium Group (retail)
- Spicers OfficeTeam (foodservice)
- All Shires Foods (foodservice)
- Tasty Tubs (retail) (foodservice)