BW Looking Forward Series: Convenience Wholesalers

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

Paul Hargreaves, chief executive, Cotswold Fayre: 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.

BW Year in Review Series: Foodservice Wholesalers

Derek O’Reilly, managing director, O’Reilly’s Wholesale: I’m no mystic Meg but I predict that we will encounter many more problems from Brexit than we will from Covid-19. If we are not provided with clear guidelines on navigating the whole UK government mess created by the powers to be at Westminster, then the fallout from supplies unable to reach our shores will be very dire indeed.
It is no secret that when there’s a pecking order in play, Northern Ireland will be the last in line to avail of products that consumers here would require – Northern Irish people are very resilient and  very resourceful and no doubt we at O’Reilly’s will find a way to get supplies for our customers. These are exceptional times but we have exceptional people working throughout our business.

Dawood Pervez, managing director, Bestway Wholesale: Our predictions for 2021 include continued new ways of working as businesses find new ways to forge and shape the future, and we see the industry coming together to potentially work together better, streamlining and working more efficiently using new innovation, harness the power of technology and data to understand their customers better in volatile trading conditions – and don’t let’s forget Brexit in this mix too, which is still rife with uncertainty.
For us – we will go ‘back to basics’ and focus on the back bone of our business across our range and stock alongside the rigorous management of supply and price. Undoubtedly, we will see change across the industry driven by changing customer and consumer behaviours in line for demands for different formats and acceleration of home delivery services within local communities.

Colin McLean, chief executive, C J Lang: Sadly, the Covid challenge is not going away, and we will have to continue to help support our colleagues and customers throughout the coming months and well into next year. As customers continue to work from home, we know our convenience stores will become even more of a destination visit so we are working hard on plans to provide our SPAR Scotland shoppers with real value and choice.
As the impact of the world recession really starts to hurt our customers wallets, having a strong SPAR Scotland value offering for our customers will become more important. We plan to continue our successful TV campaign north of the border so that we can really shout about some of the great SPAR customer deals that we can offer.
With consumer confidence predicted to stay low into 2021, we are aiming to provide a successful, profitable SPAR brand offer that gives our customers a real point of difference from the other symbol groups.
At CJ Lang we will continue to focus on our business strategy which is about growing profitable sales and helping our independent retailers reach their full potential. We will continue to take the best of our Company store learnings, and share them with our Independent colleagues.
With our renewed focus, CJ Lang is in a great position going into 2021. We have stayed true to our strengths as a business and at the same time are adapting to what the market needs. With new retailers joining SPAR in Scotland and we will be busy on-boarding them during 2021.We are now undertaking the biggest investment programme in many years with the rollout of our new exciting ‘CJ’s’ food to go offer.
We are very excited about the future of SPAR convenience in Scotland.

Andy Morisson, Dee Bee Wholesale, trading director: Who is going to try and predict 2021! I think there has been an underlying shift to convenience, and we will see that continue as the larger, better operators hang on to new found consumers. I think the biggest shift will be in digital, where existing users of wholesaler’s sites have embraced them more, and new customers have adopted. This in turn is driving the sector to catch up with B2C and there will be lots of developments – Dee Bee are certainly developing our platform with some really exciting ideas.  Sadly I also think there will be some casualties, particularly in the On trade / OOH supply chain, but the channel and the sector will all bounce back.

Debbie Harrison, trading director, Pricecheck: Customer convenience has long been driving change in the sector. Our customers are consumers themselves and their personal purchasing behaviour will influence their professional choices.  We’ll see more businesses either introducing or enhancing their digital offering throughout 2021.
Despite challenges, this year we’ve launched a new eCommerce website with sales figures already surpassing our previous financial year figures. It’s why we believe we’re already in a key position to tackle this and throughout 2021 we’ll be bringing more new and exciting online updates to our customers which will make ordering with Pricecheck as simple as possible.


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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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