The year was 1992, and Brian Clough was in his final season in charge at Nottingham Forest, the closing chapter of one of English football’s most successful managerial reigns. While one dynasty was coming to an end in the East Midlands, another was just starting, with Hyperama opening its first cash & carry in Nottingham.
The business was founded by the father and grandfather of current managing director, Marcus Singh. It started life in the 1970s as a van operation to Chinese and Indian takeaways, before it grew to a point where the biggest barrier to growth was cash flow.
The duo opened the cash & carry in Nottingham to solve this problem. One cash & carry has since become four, with Hyperama - Landmark Wholesale’s member of the year for 2016 – operating sites in West Bromwich, Peterborough, and Derby, the newest addition to the group, having been acquired three years ago.
A company with multiple arms, including several ethnic food brands, Hyperama is intent on securing further growth through its cash & carry operations. It has a clear strategy on how it wants to achieve its aims. Tasked with helping the business come out on the other side in even stronger shape is commercial director, Aris Poulis. A former buying director for Aldi, Poulis has now been at Hyperama for just over a year.
Explaining the ambitions, Poulis says: “Due to problems with the exchange rate, the National Living Wage and so on, we have to make every part of the business as efficient as possible, so that our customers do not feel the impact. In the next 18 months, we are investing around £4m in improving our frozen and chilled infrastructure, as well as resizing our depots. It is a huge investment in the existing business, and it is a commitment from us to the industry, not just Hyperama.
“In reducing the size of our Nottingham and West Bromwich depots, we will split the layout between retail and catering with clear in-store destinations for different customer groups. We are reshaping to give our customers a better shopping experience.
“By the end of this month, we hope to have the new freezers and separation set up in Nottingham. We hope to have achieved the same in West Bromwich by August.
“In Derby, we are just looking to bring in different categories to boost turnover based on customer requests, and in Peterborough, we are bringing in bigger freezers, because sales in the frozen section in all our depots have increased by 20%, so we want to ensure we have what our customers want.”
He adds: “We are cutting SKU counts and rationalising the range, working with the major suppliers to optimise the outcome for all parties involved. We are identifying the right SKUs, ones that won’t cannibalise each other, and we are working out what the planogram flow and space allocation should be by sector.”
In recent years, the cash & carry side of the business has grown its turnover from £80m to £100m. Coinciding with this, the overall split in sales from the business’ cash & carry estate between retail and catering has gone from about 70:30 seven years ago, to about 50:50 today. Hyperama hopes to convert the ratio to 70:30 in favour of catering within a few years, without sacrificing any retail sales. Poulis says: “Retail margins are getting smaller and smaller. The way to counter that – especially with the loss of PMPs on tobacco, and not knowing how sustainable being in that market is going to be – is to grow the catering side of the business. It just makes sense for us.
“As a cash & carry division, the Chinese sector is very important to us. We have also always been strong in the curry-house sector, and we have grown in fast food. We have grown the delivered catering function over the last few years – investing in lorries, multi-temperature vehicles, drivers, picking tools, and so on.”
Poulis pinpoints having close relationships with its customers as setting Hyperama apart from its competitors: “Customer service is in the DNA of those who work here – we demand it and train it into our staff when they join,” he says.
On the pricing front, meanwhile, Hyperama works to make sure that its prices on all key lines are lower than its competitors’, and the business is working with Landmark to try to get greater traction from its Retail Club.
One of the firm’s other expansion strategies is to look at acquisition opportunities. Poulis says: “The business in Derby is trading profitably three years after we took it over, so we are ready for the next acquisition. The business doesn’t have to be in the Midlands, either – we are open to various possibilities.”
Hyperama has recently partnered with a Polish foods manufacturer, which has helped it bring 200 products into its Peterborough depot to serve the area’s sizeable Polish community.
Poulis explains: “We want to make our depot a destination for different customers. So this partnership will hopefully help us attract custom. The figures are positive, so we will probably look to roll it out across the rest of our depots.
“But we are also looking to partner with other specialist wholesalers. We have the depots, you have the product – use our infrastructure to sell your inventory.”
Brian Clough showed that Nottingham is a city where big dreams can turn into brilliant realities. But all the planning in the world counts for nothing if you cannot get your project off the ground.
Poulis says: “When I joined the company, I was quite happy to see that Marcus was of a similar mindset. It is clear between us where we want to go, and we have already put down the steps. We know the end-line for our goals. The £4m investment is huge, and we want the return to be as quick as possible. We have got a good plan – now we have just got to execute it.”