This Great Scots interview comes from the MD and general manager of United Wholesale Grocers in Glasgow.
United Wholesale Grocers (UWG) operates from two depots in Glasgow: one in the north (Springburn), the other in the south (Polmadie). The group turnover is £132m but managing director Nabeel Ramzan, (NR) and general manager Yasir Chaudry (YC) expect it to hit £150m this year. Recent developments include the expansion of the Polmadie branch, which has increased selling space 25% by making internal changes.
Glasgow is such a competitive market. How do you differentiate your business?
YC: We are responsive to our customers’ needs – not like the supermarkets, which don’t even know who you are.
How is your retail club going?
YC: It’s a major focus within ourbusiness and we have noticed significant growth over the past three years. Retailers are coming under pressure from the multiple retailers and discounters. We are there to support them and to help them maintain their market share.
NR: Our symbol groups are doing extremely well. We are recruiting more members every month and have worked very closely with retailers to convey the benefits to their business of compliance, which has had a positive impact on their business and ours.
Where do you think suppliers can improve?
Buying group: Landmark
213 retail club members
185 members of staff
NR: They can improve service levels and give us access to promotions that allow our retailers to compete with the discounters.
YC: The shared margin on certain price-marked packs (PMPs) needs to be improved – PMPs now outsell non-PMPs, but some suppliers are forgetting that although consumer activity is fantastic, we need to look after the retailers and wholesalers who drive their brands.
How do you plan to grow your business in the year ahead?
YC: Through distribution and our retail club. We are going to be launching two new divisions early next year.
NR: We can’t say too much, as some our competitors jump at the opportunity to copy us.
What technology are you using to drive efficiency?
NR: We have invested heavily in technology over the past two years. We have evolved from being a traditional cash & carry to investing in services such as delivery, a retail club and online ordering. Data is a particularly important part of our business and allows us to plan ahead and improve areas that are lacking. We have employed four developers, who will be writing bespoke software for us – we are looking to implement it by the end of the year.
What’s it like being the vice-chairman of Landmark?
NR: Following the retirement of Steve Parfett last year, Landmark appointed Sam Wilcox as the new chairman and I was appointed vice-chairman – I was delighted. My role is to support Sam and managing director Martin Williams with all group strategies. It’s early days, but I am enjoying the role. We have high standards for compliance rates and discipline, which helps the Landmark board, its wholesale members and their customers to be a winning team.