The Christmas verdict

Tan Parsons speaks to suppliers, wholesalers and their customers about the main obstacles are to having a successful Christmas and the best ways to overcome them.

Wholesaler viewpoints

Mmartin williamsartin Williams, managing director, Landmark Wholesale

“Consumers plan ahead and carry out a ‘big shop’ at their preferred supermarkets in preparation for Christmas, relying less on top-up shopping trips to convenience stores. We retain our focus on the big brands and getting our prices right.”

tom gittinsTom Gittins, business development manager, Confex

“It’s up to wholesalers to make Christmas a big thing in their brochures and their depots. There’s no point in saying: ‘We have this promotional bar of chocolate at Christmas and that’s it.’ Really big it up.”

gail bridgemanGail Bridgeman, campaign manager, Bidvest 3663

“This year, we launched the Christmas range online three months earlier than ever before. We understand that Christmas is the busiest time of year for many chefs and caterers, and so the full range is also available in our Christmas brochure.”

john bainesJohn Baines, trading director, Today’s

“The greatest opportunity for wholesalers is to use the period between Christmas and New Year when the multiples have exhausted stocks. Independent retailers can take advantage of consumers’ ‘top up’ shopping by providing solutions around gifting packs that are not seasonally branded and can be used for future seasonal occasions: for example, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter.”

fida-hussainFida Hussain, general manager, Bestway, Brighton

“At the back end of November sales will typically be up by 10% to 15%, rising to as much as 40% in the last three to five days before Christmas. In-depot displays are extremely important to the wellbeing of our business. Suppliers are up for doing displays, but it’s about getting the PoS from them.”

sony bihalSony Bihal, MD, Time Cash & Carry

“Supermarkets have a handful of crazy promotions at Christmas, but independent shops can compete across their whole ranges, as long as they advertise their prices. We have to get them to advertise promotions in windows and on shelves.”

 neil heseltineNeil Heseltine, general manager, SOS Wholesale

“Our customers are typically pound shops, which see a dip over the festive season as their shoppers trade up to buy nicer things. We do order a little bit of Christmas stock in but we’re very careful – it has to be out by the middle of October.”

Retailer viewpoints

jeet bansiJeet Bansi, Middleton Road Londis, Banbury, Oxfordshire

“Musgrave’s pre-sales brochure means we can order ahead of time and ensure stock availability. It also helps us plan our orders. For example, we may not want Christmas puddings and goose fat at the start of December, but we can order in advance so we will have it closer to Christmas.”

christine hopeChristine Hope, Hopes of Longtown, Herefordshire

“The thing I look for in my wholesaler at Christmas is stock availability up to the last minute. There’s no point buying loads of cranberry sauce and redcurrant jelly before Christmas because we don’t have the space.”

peter lambPeter Lamb, Lambs Larder, Frant, East Sussex

“The problem we face as a small operator in stocking large amounts of Christmas foods or goods is that if we do not sell before December 25, we are stuck with them or we have to sell them off at cost or below.”

vipaul pabariVipul Pabari, Connaught Road Post Office, Market Harborough

“It makes a big difference if wholesalers offer wines and spirits in singles, as well as cases. At Christmas, I might look at champagne costing £40 and I might want one or two different bottles, but not a whole case – you don’t want to tie your money up in something that could take a year to sell.”

Foodservice and on-trade viewpoints

Sarah Blewett, Michelin-starred chef, Gallery Café, Truro, Cornwall

“What would be really useful is if wholesalers contacted their customers in October to find out what they need. We should be planning our Christmas menu in September but you are often still too busy with the summer trade. But in October, you are really planning for Christmas. Any later than that and it’s too late.”

Lesley Day, licensee, The White Admiral, Harlow, Essex

“We do a lot more trade at Christmas and Carling will probably be our biggest seller. We go to the Booker depot in North Weald, and that’s where we get all our spirits, Magners and crisps. The most important thing is that they have enough stock.”

Stuart Keen, owner, Acorn 30, Epsom, Surrey

“The thing that we’re looking for at Christmas is the best prices – it’s simple as. Everybody’s looking for discounts and deals at the moment. We use 3663 and Booker for our food and Matthew Clark for drinks. We’re very happy with the service we get from them.”

Click next to read festive case studies from three top wholesalers


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