11 new members make Today’s Group a critical route to pubs and clubs, says ELIT ROWLAND
The managing director of Today’s Group, Bill Laird, has urged suppliers to recognise the buying group as a valuable route to on-trade, after 11 on-trade specialists joined the business. Together, they add £180m to on-trade volume, which now totals £450m, pushing overall purchasing power to £5.8bn.
The new on-trade members are: Dayla, Tolchards, ABV Wholesale, IM Wines, Island Ales, Maison Maurice, Small Beer, Swallow Wholesaler, Tanners Wines, Thorne Licensed Wholesalers and Young’s Beers Wine and Spirits.
The wholesalers came from National Drinks Distributors (NDD), a national buying group of 23 on-trade specialist wholesalers: 11 went to Today’s Group to join three other NDD members – Wilds of Oldham, HT White and Tate-Smith. The remaining six joined Landmark, while the other three went independent.
The members, which were revealed at the Today’s Group Suppliers’ Forum in September, are part of a bigger on-trade push by the group, expected to improve terms for members as well as the range of products on offer.
Laird said: “We haven’t been able to offer specialist on-trade wholesalers things like cask ale before. But with the new members on board, we can ask suppliers to recognise us as a real route to on-trade.”
The on-trade push comes at a time when consolidation and rationalisation are seeing some suppliers struggle to afford separate routes to market. The new on-trade business will give suppliers the chance to tap into £450m of on-trade volume.
“When we talk to on-trade suppliers, essentially it’s about liquid – it doesn’t really matter whether it’s in a can, bottle or a keg,” explains Laird. “Increasing the on-trade business and packaging it up together means that the group can talk to suppliers about the bigger picture.”
But with a membership of 172 wholesalers, each catering for a diverse customer base, the on-trade push will bring Today’s closer to suppliers in developing the right solution.
Britvic builds tailored solutions for members
Speaking at the Today’s Group Forum, Britvic’s wholesale channel director Clare Bocking told more than 200 suppliers to the channel how the business managed to reach a win-win with the group, despite initial challenges:
“Our relationship with Today’s Group was at marriage-guidance stage,” Bocking explained. But things soon changed: “The one-shoe-fits-all approach wasn’t working so we got our heads together and started to approach different segments of the business differently.”
As a result, Britvic now has a two-year agreement that will give Today’s Group members the best proposition for different environments, whether it’s foodservice, grocery or licensed.
Bocking’s presentation was a powerful message to other suppliers looking to grow sales in the channel – the methods that work today won’t necessarily work in the future.
Laird agrees that regular communication is critical to good business: “Sometimes, we hit a rocky patch with suppliers – there could be a falling-off-the-cliff of volume or a change in supplier strategy resulting in less engagement from that supplier with wholesale and convenience.”
One of the biggest problems is when suppliers identify on-trade members individually, without agreeing group terms.
“We had some hard-hitting discussions and took some criticism, too – but as a result, our relationship went from good to bad to good again,” says Laird.
Today’s spent up to nine months working with Britvic to improve the proposition for members. “We told them that our members are getting products cheaper elsewhere and that their terms were not clear enough,” says Laird.
The point was reinforced at the Forum where Laird urged delegates to work with the centre: “Don’t fix something with a wholesaler then come to us. And if you are trialling a product, do it by region, not by wholesaler. You upset more people than you please.”
The on-trade push comes just four weeks after Landmark Wholesale announced a new on-trade arm and added six on-trade members to its business. Today’s also have some ideas about how it will package up and market the on-trade segment. At the time of going to press, discussions were under way with a potential 12th new member of the group.
“It’s early days for this recruitment driver – we have been a bit lax in realising our [on-trade] potential,” says Laird.