BW Looking Forward Series: Buying Groups

Wholesale buying groups

With 2020 now out of the way and a clear light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel, buying groups from the wholesale industry make their predictions for the year ahead. 

Tom Gittins, managing director, Confex: All UK sectors will continue to consolidate in what is a very developed internal marketplace. I believe you will see more mergers and acquisitions within wholesale as companies look for synergies, efficiencies and ways to diversify. From a Confex perspective we are seeing local wholesale becoming a ‘hub’ for a more diverse range of products, with traditional routes to market ever more blurred by advances in technology. An increase in home working will lead to more home deliveries of food. We have seen a number of Confex wholesalers move into B2C selling as a stop gap during Covid with online selling now forming a large part of their sales. Confex will have launched over 300 CORE Own brand SKU’s by January 2021 and plan to double this range by the end of 2021. We see a massive gap in the market for an Industry leading own brand spanning retail and foodservice which will help Confex wholesalers to win new business. We will continue to recruit strategically to strengthen the Group both geographically and across product categories to ensure that the Confex wholesaler can win business from the national operators such as Booker & Bidfood.

Chris Binge, chief executive, Fairway Foodservice:  The next 18 months will see big change in our industry- digital, data and delivery will be key. Inflation will return in 2021 – the economy will grow strongly (despite big increases in unemployment) and sectors within foodservice will see-saw- as “sandwich bars” and “coffee outlets” grew quickly but may now lose impetus with less “office working”.-What will be the new sectors growing in prominence in ‘21 ?  Country Pub Restaurants will flourish-catering for walkers/cyclist during the day and diners in the evening particularly if serving “real” ales too. Working from home will save commute time for many and allow evening family/couples outings for dinner- but not in highly populated urban areas.

2020 Vision- The leading names in wholesale predict what next year will bring

Darren Goldney, managing director, Unitas:
We will be more efficient and more effective. Our supplier council helps generate ideas into action with a recent example being the deduplication of new line form admin. In 2021, now that we have shed complex and non-value added affiliations to other groups, we are better enabled to have members executing to the same standards on the same programmes.

Coral Rose, managing director, Country Range Group: For 2021, working at home will become normal for many, which will benefit many local shops as people will spend more time in their communities buying from local retailers.  I hope so as we are opening our own food hall and restaurant in the spring! Some of the speciality food shops may need to balance their range a little and stock more mainstream items to satisfy customer demand, so we need to be aware of that in our future ranging.  We will continue to develop our chilled range as this has seen the highest growth, and will also develop our chilled logistics allowing more frequent deliveries.  And the plan is also to add a frozen range to our current chilled and ambient offering.  We will also continue to focus on reducing our carbon impact and step up activities to encourage our suppliers to do the same.  There is no doubt that the current pandemic may be a pale reflection of the future destruction of the planet and associated climate change unless business cleans up its act.

Yulia (Goodwin) Petitt, head of trading & marketing, Sugro: 2021 looks set to be another challenging year seeing the industry battling though Covid-19 ongoing challenges as well as Brexit. We can certainly expect to see a further acceleration into digital as well as customer base re-mapping driven by B2B and B2C areas. Online ordering platform for Wholesalers will become an absolute must have tool. Stock availability in depots and business efficiencies will be something that Wholesalers need to focus on more than ever. Industry will see a further demand in availability of contactless payment options as well as ability to accommodate enough click and collect and delivery slots based on surge in demand from their customers.

At Sugro we follow these trends closely with 2021 Group Trading and Marketing strategy being based on B2B and B2C digital, diversification and data. We will continue investing in digital which will eventually see most Members moving onto digital platform. Despite all challenges Sugro group is set for another successful year of growth. There is no doubt that 2021 will be a challenging year but it will also be another year of opportunities and as a Group we are in a good place to face the challenges and embrace the opportunities.


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Paul Hill is the Editor of Better Wholesaling. He can be found on Twitter at @BW_PaulHill, or contacted via and 07960935659.


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