A meeting of minds

Recent advances in technology have revolutionised the way we communicate. Sophisticated tools, such as email, SMS, conference calls, video conferences, social networking, webinars and webcasts, have become almost indispensable. But, while it is hard to imagine life without these modern means of connecting, most of us recognise the immense, irreplaceable value of maintaining personal contact throughout the supply chain.

The pace of change in FMCG is breathtaking: new product launches, packaging, promotions, advertising campaigns, relaunches and point-of-sale are all best communicated face to face. So I was particularly surprised when I noticed while I was studying our top 20 suppliers that 16 – yes, 16 – out of these 20 have recently implemented major changes, resulting in good, solid people leaving
our sector.

The scale of these changes across our top supplier base over the past six months is both concerning and alarming – and, I fear, worse than anything I have witnessed in almost 30 years at Landmark Wholesale. When you consider the time and cost involved in recruiting and training staff to understand our sector, these actions waste huge amounts of money, and deprive us of the expertise and advice we need to deliver the results we are all striving to achieve.

Despite the challenges of the market and the economy, our buying group continues to grow and increase market share as a direct result of our investments back into our business. Our members are showing their commitment to the sector by investing in new depots, and improving and extending current depots, as well as through new and improved customer services, promotions, and staff recruitment and training. We are also very proud of the investment we make in our award-winning Lifestyle Express retail development programme and the increased market share it brings.

I understand that trying to cut costs is a natural reaction in tough trading times but I would argue that this is short-sighted – the loss of highly valued and experienced account directors and controllers is almost irreversible and can only have long-term detrimental effects on our sector. And are these cuts affecting just the wholesale teams or are the multiples also suffering the consequences of losing similarly highly trained staff? I suspect not.

The wholesale sector remains vibrant and is capable of more great growth but it has to be done in collaboration with suppliers – we need quality people supporting our business and we need continuity to maximise the return on suppliers’ ­investment.

Modern methods of communicating make our lives easier, saving us time and expense along the way. But our sector remains relationship-driven – people make a business and there is simply no substitute for face-to-face interaction and the establishment of long-lasting personal relationships.


Avatar photo
Martin Williams is the former managing director of Landmark and the former chairman of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors


  1. Barry, thank you for your comments – we should come and see your business some time.

    And Keith, very valid points, are you a wholesaler, too? Many people commended Martin for his comments in this article – it’s about time someone was brave enough to tell it how it is.

  2. Lets be honest here it is poor directors and executive really, we have looked at this area and found that the training of new leaders is poor as most are made into copies of the same old people and styles of working, this was one of the big problems that collapsed the economy – old thinking pretending to be new ideas, I train people to be not out side the box or inside the box but to ignore the box totally, the question we should ask is simple ‘why create a copy of yourself’ are you that vain and perfect.
    mentors should be taught how to bring out the best in people but 90% teach there version of the world that is bad for business
    with each generation there will be different thinking and motivation so every year we have a new generation of skilled people most will be left to rot because we look for a copy of ourselves there are no need to recruit from outside(exception are sometimes required) as the people companies need are always inside but the narrow margin of which companies speak can be compensated for large companies develop poor relationships as they are driven by closed ideas and the lack of ability to create a health family inside a business. most are fake, illusions, not long ago I looked at a major company and it’s relation ship with us as a company but also who we supply (they only new what was stated as part of the business) ‘do you know your customers by name or have sat down for a cup of tea’ I have for thirty years taught staff to develop there own mind and opinion of work, business and how to achieve results so know first hand that it is not technology but as I have proven if I ask the delivery boy to deliver a product to a customer effectively and cheaper he can achieve this because he understands the problems as he does the job everyday, I worked my way up from the bottom and in this trade now there are very few people who totally understand the trade it has never lost trade but only increased, but on the same side suppliers at high level are finding it hard to trade as the market is fixed against them (cost of creating new products and development of a company cost three to five times as much in Britain as Europe they don’t need to check all details of a product so 90% of products today should carry a disclaimer (IBS, Cancer is a result of poor European actions) this has resulted in large suppliers having to cover extended costs long term which means they legally have to hold back money which they used to use to help other companies in the supply chain. this needs to be addressed. environmentally success of suppling each other locally is a must to over come future business problems – area networks of wholesalers will bring change to the ever changing market.

    simple question ‘do you know what the wholesaler down the road does for a living’.
    could you not supply each other – that business the old fashioned way a personal touch. there is so much money around but it is a case of over milked top companies by some wholesalers and under use by others – what happened to the ‘my company my problem’ solve the problem first as much as possible with in what you can do your self then and only then should you become reliant on big companies as this has been the case in the last ten years dependency ‘if the baby is yours feed it your self’ I supply the customer they supply there’s so why would I expect my supplier to do the job for me that’s is money for nothing and why do they not just cut me out and supply direct to them. then I have lost in the end. make your case a bit clear as I see there is no case for what you say, but just an excuse I have just talked to our major suppliers with in there company and ours to solve the problem , I take this as a lack of business knowledge and communication some one needs to show you how to communicate effectively here excuse, excuse, excuse, put up or shut up Landmark you created this problem so stop moving the problem over to big companies as it is a matter as much for internal as well as external. The Chairperson of your company must be asleep in his little world the same as you ? stop blaming people or others and solve the communication it is simple. I deal with big companies every day I don’t have your problem we compromise. this is going to get a lot worst so you had better be prepared for changes as unless we sack directors nationally and bring in a new generation of ideas you as a company will be gone out of the trade. no choice.

    Barry wormwood (lal sons wholesaler, stoney stanton road Coventry, cv1 4fn, 07557474725 or email me at barryworwood@gmail.com

  3. Martin Williams is to be commended on his comments. Sadly, the major fmcg companies place little value in building and sustaining long term supplier relationships. They are increasingly internally focussed, more concerned about their own rather than serving their customers needs.
    With most sales forces the only interaction with external customers, their needs are often relegated behind other internal functions such as HR,Marketing,Finance etc. I fear the large fmcg companies will continue down this path of management by process. My challenge to the small / medium size companies, is to look around you, see the opportunities the many high skilled operators can offer you and utilise their employment strengths to your advantage.


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