Booker to cut ‘bloated’ retail range in depots

Booker is to cut its “bloated” retail range across cash and carries, grow fresh and expand its existing catering range, according to our sister website Better Retailing.

The strategy was re­vealed last month by the wholesaler’s commercial director, Sheila Gallagher, at the Destination 2025 wholesale conference. She said Booker had un­dertaken a major review across its depots to provide stores with more focused product ranges, alongside more fresh lines.

Gallagher told attendees Booker had reviewed 151 categories across retail and catering over an eight-month period. She said the project would “deliver an optimum range for convenience retailers” and account for the different for­mats of stores supplied by Booker. Gallagher explained that different types of retailers and their local shoppers were taken into account as part of the project.

She said: “It takes into account the nuances of whether you’re a forecourt, a small corner shop or a small neighbour­hood grocer. We’ll respect regional lines and local lines that are needed as part of the range. It’s allowed us to tighten up a range that was a little bit bloated.”

Read more: Booker retail sales up 14.2%, with company also revealing diversity networks

Attendees at the Destination 2025 event were informed that the review was informed by extensive market research.  “We looked at the longer term, we put the market data that’s available to us with the customer insight that we’ve got, the performance of the categories, what role will each of these categories play in the medium and long terms,” Gallagher explained. “Where can we see opportunities for more accelerated growth?”

Alan Mannings, of Shop on the Green in Chartham, Kent, praised the decision. He told Better Retailing: “I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve already seen elements of this happen in my nearest Booker depot. They’ve reduced the current range by 20% through the removal of slow sellers. It’ll be even better if they can add more fresh lines. For example, I no longer see Euro Shopper cola, mango juices or some curry sauces there.”

Mark Dudden, of Albany Road Post Office in Cardiff, described the strategy as “positive”. He cit­ed localised confection­ery as a category he’d like to see added.

Ken Singh, of BB Nevi­son Superstore in Ponte­fract, West Yorkshire, has also seen the availability of more-popular coffee products improve at his nearest Booker depot. However, he said there was still a major difference between the number of catering pro­motions in comparison with retail. Singh’s thoughts reflect concerns from other re­tailers, who had previous­ly claimed the wholesaler was expanding catering at the expense of retail in depots. “I already see quite a lot of catering spe­cials there,” he added.

Booker has been raising awareness of the review more widely. Retailers reported being notified about the changes in the past month through of­ficial notices, seen by Better Retailing, posted at depots.

One rival wholesaler, which asked not to be named, has been using the range review as an opportunity to gain more customers. It told Better Retailing: “We’ve been told by retailers that their nearest depot has closed its doors to retail and is serving catering only. It’s the same with another nearby. We’re using it as an opportunity to try to gain customers who would have previ­ously shopped at those branches.”

Gallagher provided assurances that locally popular lines would be protected. However, one retailer has expressed con­cern. “It seems like Booker is following a similar strategy as Tesco, which has recently reduced ranges in its stores,” they said.

“It may affect certain seasonal products such as chocolates. They sell well for me all year round, but aren’t quite so good elsewhere. Some towns and cities have one Booker depot serving the entire area. However, Booker needs to consider individual customer bases. The bestsellers at a newsagent in a council estate will differ to that of a conveni­ence store based in a city centre nearby.”

Read the 9 February edition of our sister title RN Magazine for an in depth analysis of Booker’s range refresh strategy, and its impact on convenience stores.


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