Double depot

STEFAN APPLEBY visits the first depot to combine Booker and Makro products under one roof

The first thing about the new Booker/Makro depot in Sheffield’s Park Hill district that hits you is its size. The 100,000sq ft depot dominates the trading estate towards the east of the city. It is the first depot in the country to combine Booker and Makro’s offerings under one roof – the first of six such sites that will open in the next year.

The site was originally a Makro depot, but back in the summer, the decision was made to bring a 35,000sq ft Booker depot, located almost literally across the road, into the unit. “Together,” says Booker chief executive Charles Wilson, “we can do something that no one else can do.”

Guy Farrant, managing director of Booker Cash & Carry, says the company is trying to understand what works for both businesses and grow to the benefit of both. “Availability and delivery will remain a focus,” he says.

Customer satisfaction is very important to Booker. The company sets itself a target of getting 90% of its customers to recommend their particular depot to other people. “86,000 retail businesses buy from Booker, and more and more of these are coming from customer recommendations – this is our aim,” ­Farrant ­explains.
If the company doesn’t hit 90%, it analyses every angle to work out why. This analysis focuses on Booker’s three key drivers – choice, price and ­service.

The Sheffield depot aims to tick all these boxes, including reducing non-food lines so they now occupy only 35% of the space in the depot (as well as reducing the number of SKUs from 7,000 to 3,500), doubling the space in growth markets such as ethnic drinks and fractional spirits, and introducing simple yet effective innovations such as canopies over the entrance and exits, and supplying free tea and coffee to customers.

“Customer satisfaction is rising quarter-by-quarter,” says Andrew Muldoon, Booker stores director. “But our recommend score is still only on 85%, which is not good enough. So we’ll keep making it better.”

It’s this focus on customer recommendation that has driven one of the biggest innovations in the depot: a delivery area for retail customers.

Delivery is a real growth area and director of delivery Barry Richardson says that the point is being reached across a number of depots in the Booker estate where their delivery capacity has been reached.

The depot has 15,000sq ft of space devoted to deliveries – a model that Richardson says can be rolled out across the UK in 30-50 locations.

“We used to pick goods for delivery off the shop floor, which affected availability. We’ve now put all high-volume products next to the delivery space, which has increased our deliveries fourfold,” he says.

Some of the solutions that have been introduced in-depot by Booker will be rolled out around the country, but at it’s heart, the depot is still a Sheffield depot serving Booker’s Sheffield customers.

“Booker is structurally a very local business,” says Charles Wilson.


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As head of digital at Newtrade and editor in chief of Retail Express, Stefan sees, first-hand, all the newest product launches and developments and gets to talk to everyone across the retail sector, from independent retailers to managing directors. Stefan can be found on Twitter at @Stefan_Appleby


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