GSK’s Jo Cooper is driving soft drinks sales with energy and commitment, writes ELIT ROWLAND
BW: What’s the best thing about working in the channel?
JC: Definitely the people you work with. As many of the wholesalers and retailers you are selling to are often the owners of the business or have been involved in the channel for a number of years, they are very passionate and knowledgeable. They are keen to share their ideas and opinions and want to work together to grow the business.
How are you working with wholesalers to grow sales?
Last year, we launched a Caribbean Crush flavour Lucozade Energy that was exclusive to wholesale for 12 months. It was a huge success, so later this year, we will launch another flavour exclusive to the channel. We also work closely with wholesalers to drive distribution of price-marked packs – which deliver an increased rate of sale to consumers – on both core-range packs and new products.
How have you improved the way you work with wholesalers?
We recognise that each wholesaler, although it may be a member of a buying group, has its own business strategy and way of doing things. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, we build individual joint business plans with wholesalers to maximise category opportunities. Once agreed, the activity is executed by our team of wholesale development executives, who call regularly on the depots. We also have more than 100 field sales reps, who call on independent retailers, provide category advice and ensure the best-selling products are in distribution.
Where do you think wholesalers can improve?
Both suppliers and wholesalers could more effectively use the data they have available to grow sales. Understanding shopper behaviour and emerging trends will help us to identify and unlock opportunities for growth. I think that wholesalers and suppliers need to share more data and analyse it together. Investing in technology to capture this data is important – the grocery channel is already well ahead.
Where do you think the industry will be in 10 years’ time?
There are three main things that will happen:
1. Consolidation: In 10 years’ time, we could see some of the key buying groups coming together to strengthen their offerings. There will be fewer independent stores but the quality of these stores will be better. More of them will adopt symbol fascias.
2. Growth of delivered service: Wholesalers will all be offering delivered services to both retail and food service outlets. The way retailers and caterers use cash & carry depots will change. They will be used more as information and advice centres. Retailers and caterers will get most of their orders delivered, and use the depots to get advice and information, top up orders, and meet with other retailers and caterers. This means that depot staff will need to focus more on customer service and product knowledge.
3. Digital evolution: We are seeing more and more independent retailers getting digitally savvy so we expect the delivered wholesale channel to grow as online ordering picks up. Retailers are already using their smartphones to check their store sales and place orders, even if they aren’t physically there. Technology is already changing the way we shop, pay for things and communicate, and this will affect the future of wholesale as with any other channel.