A world of opportunity

    If wholesalers and other players in the chain combine their intelligence, they’ll enjoy the bigger picture, writes the IGD’s JOANNE DENNY-FINCH

    ‘A world of opportunity’ was the theme of my presentation at this year’s Landmark conference in San ­Francisco in May.

    This is a defining time for food and grocery wholesalers, so I talked about various ways for the sector to position itself for a prosperous future.

    Convenience retailing, for example, keeps outgrowing the total grocery market, despite shoppers’ emphasis on saving money over saving time.

    This is partly because shopping ‘little and often’ in convenience stores helps people to manage their budgets and reduce over-buying and waste, especially if they’re offered smaller pack sizes.

    Retailers and caterers are also shopping ‘little and often’ from their wholesalers as they manage their cash flows. They, too, want small enough case sizes to avoid overbuying.

    Recent events have affected trust in the entire food sector, making shoppers more interested in where their food comes from and more determined to buy local produce – a further opportunity for wholesalers.

    Digital revolution

    Our ShopperVista research found that more than three-quarters (78%) of shoppers now say they prefer to buy British, up from 55% six years ago.

    Health is a perennial shopper priority, although people do find it hard to put their good intentions into practice, so they’re grateful to anyone who makes this easier.

    For conveniences stores, this can mean offering more fresh food. Metro cash & carries in France have installed crate-cooling machines to help customers transport chilled food safely.

    With the entry-cost of technology falling, there are more opportunities to exploit the digital revolution, as big-company techniques come within the reach of smaller businesses. Both retailers and wholesalers could, for example, extend their range through an Argos-style click and collect model.

    JJ Food Service found that some of its smaller customers don’t have computers, so they set up a digital room where customers can come in, browse, order online and take away their goods.

    Perhaps some delivered wholesalers will decide to extend into the home delivery business. New creative ways to use the latest technologies are emerging by the day.

    Although technology-based innovations can be spectacular, it’s usually the small details that matter most to ­customers.

    The key to this is focusing on the things that really matter – like doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well. That’s easily said, but can be hard to deliver.

    The data and insight now available can help companies choose products and display them in the most effective way, more accurately and precisely than ever, and at a manageable cost.

    Teamwork also plays a crucial role. Neighbouring companies often get the biggest payback locally if they work together on promotions, events, loyalty schemes and investments.

    If teamwork through the chain has been optional up to now, it will be absolutely essential tomorrow. Wholesalers are able to spot the big opportunities more clearly if they combine their own intelligence with that of other players in the chain.

    Understanding the varying needs of different customers and committing to best-in-class service is particularly vital. This means empowering customer-facing teams to make rapid decisions and ensuring they’re up to speed with the latest shopper trends.

    So wholesalers are presented with a ‘world of opportunity’. We’ll be picking up all these themes and more with the key players from the sector when we host our Wholesaling 2013 event in September.
    This is the perfect time to focus on the future, foster the spirit of teamwork and reinforce your commitment to customer excellence.

    Joanne Denney-Finch is IGD’s chief executive. For more information on IGD’s Wholesaling 2013 Conference, visit: www.igd.com/wholesaling2013


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