Great Scots: JW Filshill, Glasgow

In the fifth part of Great Scots, Simon Hannah discusses the challenges JW Filshill faces in competitive Glasgow.

Simon Hannah, managing  director, JW Filshill
Simon Hannah, managing
director, JW Filshill
JW Filshill has recently developed a digital voucher scheme – early indications show that 80% of shoppers who requested vouchers have redeemed them. The business is also offering a helping hand to smaller, remote wholesalers, who have difficulty getting stock. 
What’s the biggest challenge for wholesalers in Scotland?

There are lots of great businesses here but because some of them are far away, they can get forgotten about. It takes six hours to drive from my depot to Wick, which can put suppliers off, but these businesses need more support. With a bit of lateral thinking, we could address this issue.

We heard that you are helping some of them.

Yes, we are collaborating with some of our smaller, fellow Today’s members. Some of the major suppliers don’t want to deliver to small, remote wholesalers so we will sell to them instead – we even offer mixed pallets. There’s a great opportunity to do more of this. It helps suppliers and wholesalers with stock availability, too.

What’s the wholesale market like in Scotland?

There’s been a lot of consolidation in the on-trade, which means that the large businesses can focus on one main brewer. But we think there’s an opportunity to offer an unbiased range. We’ve just acquired a small wines and spirits wholesaler, which is helping us to grow our business in this area. 

Is it a competitive market?

In Glasgow, it can be a race to the bottom. Whoever’s got the cheapest deal of the day is the one that will generate the most, potentially unprofitable, turnover.  Logistically, Glasgow is an easy place to get around and this can add to the competition even more – a retailer can get around 10 cash & carries within an hour, whereas in London it could take a whole day.

Fast Facts
Size of depot: 170,000sq ft
£165m Turnover
Buying group: Today’s Group
8,000 SKUs
14 sales reps
Customers: independent retailers, caterers and on-trade
Why should customers come to you?

We’ve been here a long time and have earned a lot of respect. We play a straight bat – what you see is what you get. We invest a huge amount of money in making sure that what we promise suppliers is what happens in-store. We’re not about taking on thousands of fascias and offering poor compliance – we want to constantly improve the quality of our stores and helping our customers grow profitably is a key focus.

What can suppliers do to further support your business?

The soft drink suppliers are good at coming up with a category approach around display. But I think we need a simplification of the beer category – when you go into a retailer’s store and look at the beer, there’s no uniform approach and this is confusing to the consumer. A simplification of what that category looks like is definitely needed. There also needs to be more focus on the growth categories, which currently don’t get as much space as they should. There’s huge interest in craft beer, for instance, and a really good margin for retailers.

What’s your latest project?

We recently launched a digital voucher scheme whereby our retail customers could offer their shoppers discount vouchers. We promoted the scheme on social media and we even did some pitchside advertising at games that were shown on Sky Sports. Eighty per cent of people who requested a voucher used it. We are always innovating – the market is so aggressive so we are always on the lookout for ways to improve.

Catch up on part 4 of Great Scots now with Mike Patterson of William Yule and Son.


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