Despite the past year being one to forget for the foodservice sector, a number of key decision makers in the channel were keen to point out the positives for the channel at the FWD ’s Bringing Wholesale Together event.
“We’ve recognised our ability to react and adapt,” said Coral Rose of Country Range Group, who is also FWD Chairman. “Look how swiftly wholesalers adopted technology, getting B2C operations into place. It’s opened our eyes to potential within our businesses which we maybe didn’t see before.”
Bestway’s Dawood Pervez pointed out that wholesalers are entrepreneurs by nature and had flexed really well to find availability, workarounds, and new markets. “On the retail side, we’ve discovered that our infrastructure can cope with a lot more volume,” he added.
“We’ve learned that our retailers can sell take-home packs given the right circumstances, and that PMPs are very important for indies, as it rock-solid availability on KVIs and core products.”
Sue Knowles of Costco added: “We learned what’s essential and what wasn’t. We became a lot quicker at reacting and deciding what was essential to running a business. Dealing with the volumes we’re requesting has been difficult for suppliers. We’re focusing on getting the warehouses open and full of stock.”
For Sugro’s Neil Turton, the year had been “curiously good.” “Wholesalers can be slow to change and buying groups even slower, but 2020 speeded everything up. The arguments for change in B2C and particularly digital have been very well received by members and there’s been a rush to get our app as wholesalers have wanted to become e-commerce enabled at a speed they might not have gone at if not for Covid.”
Gary Mullineux, who took over leadership of Caterforce 12 months ago, also saw positives from a very difficult year. “In the long term I hope this will be beneficial because it’s made everyone in the group take a step back and look at their businesses, how they are investing time and how they can move forward. This year there’s been a true harmony between supplier and wholesaler, working together to find solutions.”
Dawood Pervez agreed: “The sector’s been working very collaboratively with suppliers all year and that’s led to better trust and better relationships in general. There’s a lot more understanding in the market now of the role of wholesale and the outlets we serve, and more appreciation as well.”
Neil Turton said his wish for the new year was simplicity from suppliers. ‘We’ve had about 40 new product proposals for Q1and 2 and we need to be realistic about that, particularly as we’re anticipating issues with availability. We need to work together to ensure we don’t put pressure on SMEs who will be going through a restructure of their cost base in the early months of next year.”