We spoke to Paul Hargreaves, Ashton Marriott and Lisa Pearson at Cotswold Fayre to discuss the impact of coronavirus and technology on wholesale operations.
Paul Hargreaves, chief executive of fine food distributor Cotswold Fayre says:
What have you learnt from the past twelve months from the perspective of running a wholesale operation?
I have learnt that our company is incredibly resourceful and flexible, and I am extremely proud of the way our team has adjusted to completely different working conditions and the challenges that the pandemic has thrown at us. We have also learned that whilst our supply chain is also resilient, some leaders relished the challenge and others adopted a more nervous approach, initially choosing to shut down rather than adapt to the challenges. Also, generally within UK business, that some employers behaved superbly in how they treated their teams whereas others were less admirable.
How has your business changed since the pandemic hit?
The main changes for us are connected to growth. There has been huge growth in our chilled operation and particularly strong growth within the convenience sector. Of our customer base, it is convenience, butchers and farm shops that seem to have benefited most from changes in customer’s spending habits. Whilst these are less pronounced now than last March/April, there is still significant extra business for all these businesses. We are around 45% up year on year.
As we hopefully head into a post-Covid world, what advice/tips can you offer from what you’ve experienced?
The companies who have come out of the pandemic the strongest are those with strong teams united around a clear purpose. We grew a strong culture for the 2-3 years before the pandemic and faced challenges in that time which, I believe, made us more resilient when the pandemic came around – and able to maintain our culture with everyone working remotely. Companies that do well post-Covid will be those that have a good balance between office and home working as they will have happier people.
Ashton Marriott, head of marketing at Cotswold Fayre says:
When looking for a new warehouse management system, we quickly realised the potential of technology to alleviate admin heavy tasks. We began scoping a live-stock website to benefit our customers, in conjunction with a B2B ordering solution for retailers in the FMCG space. Since our eCommerce integration some seven years ago, we’ve seen online orders increase from 5% to 48% – and during this time, there has been a continued shift towards digital and convenience. It hasn’t been without a few hiccups along the way, overcoming issues to meet our complex bespoke functionalities, like our multi-basket checkout, but the development pains are quickly forgotten when the solution is refined!
With everything now at our fingertips, it’s never been more important for companies to embrace technological changes, develop new solutions and adopt integrations to offer a seamless service. We’ve advanced our use of technology to benefit the supply chain through automation and providing real-time stock updates from the warehouse. This has allowed us to use other digital tools to improve our online user journey and continue exploring new ways to reduce our impact on the planet, such as electric vehicles.
Lisa Pearson, customer relations director at Cotswold Fayre says:
We recently announced a long-term partnership with Ramsden International, expanding opportunities for our suppliers into new markets. As part of our agreement, we were keen to ensure robust electronic communication between the two companies, which allowed us to further develop our warehouse management system. As soon as an order is loaded onto the Ramsden International system, it electronically transfers to the Cotswold Fayre system – saving time and removing opportunities for human error by re-entering order information.”