D&D’s Steve Dussek explains to TAN PARSONS why wholesaling is like signing rock stars
BW: How did D&D begin?
SD: We’re based in Aylesford, Kent, and started out distributing Kettle Chips 20 years ago. We blossomed out into premium biscuits, confectionery and drinks. Today, we specialise in premium adult snacks and confectionery, and offer a great testing ground for suppliers.
Who are your customers?
London is our heartland and we have 3,000 customers there and in the home counties – anyone who is independent.
How has being a member of Confex helped you?Our main issue is remaining competitive. The aim of being with Confex is to get the best prices possible for our products. Certainly, in the last four or five years, that has proved advantageous. It’s well connected, so when I’ve had pricing issues with suppliers, it’s been able to help.
What’s unique about your business?
The likes of Sainsbury don’t build a brand – they wait for it to be established and then move in. Businesses like ours grab hold of a new product and energise it. We don’t sell Mars or Walkers – we’ve gone the other way. But our brands do have a shelf-life – if it’s good, we’ll have four or five years before it becomes so popular that everyone else is doing it. At the moment, with products like aloe vera drinks that are ‘in’, those suppliers will hook up with our sales guys and use our 3,000 customers as a ‘test bed’ to get the market rolling.
What’s the biggest challenge for you?
Independent businesses on the high street are falling fast. The multiples have got the lion’s share of the marketplace. Our challenge is how to overcome this as a problem for the next five years.
In the longer term, it’s going to be about finding a new way of getting to the consumer. There will still be millions of people eating these foods and we can be a player if we can find the best way of supplying them. The internet is key and we’re working on our internet site now.
How do you know which newproducts to test?
We get 20 new products coming in a week and choosing them is like signing up potential rock stars. There’s stuff you say yes to, stuff you say no to, stuff you wish you’d never said yes to and stuff you say no to that you wish you’d said yes to. It’s got to feel right. It comes a bit with experience and it’s about trying to keep in touch with all age groups.
What tips would you give other wholesalers?
Have a good business plan and understand all your costs. Don’t work on pounds, shillings and pence – work on percentage returns. Have you made an allowance for vehicle costs, parking fines and bad debts? All those little things matter.