Spotlight- How North West Teas found a unique customer base

Originating as a door-to-door hot drinks service in Liverpool a quarter of a century ago, North West Teas (NWT) has organically evolved into a multi-million pound wholesaler within the facilities management sector, and more recently, the third party arena.

“Customer requests gradually began to expand our business naturally when the company first started,” explains business development manager Ryan Torrible, “and as they requested us to supply their companies, or their relative further afield, we then picked up more work and morphed into a wholesaler without ever planning to.”

Not just your typical FMCG wholesaler, NWT has found a niche for itself in which it supplies more than 7000 SKU’s to the facilities management sector. This covers a wide range of customer types including foodservice, vending machines, janitorial, construction, ship stores and coffee roasters, to name but a few.

15 minutes with… Ryan Torrible of North West Teas

“Our product range is also varied. We stock anything from hot beverages, cleaning products and disposables to confectionery, garden wear and even office supplies. We never restrict ourselves with what we choose to supply as we are customer led in terms of new products. If a valued customer wants a product we can supply, it will be available on our next price file for the rest of our customer base,” he adds.

It’s not a surprise to find that an ever-evolving company such as NWT is constantly revaluating its operations, with the past couple of years seeing investment in its warehouse and IT systems. “We now also ship third-party for a growing number of businesses who offer our entire range on their websites.”

Supplying approximately 600-700 customers every month on a next day service, NWT’s eight vehicles deliver out of the company head office in Liverpool to as far east as Sheffield and as far south as Birmingham. The rest are couriered out through either the pallet network or courier.

“These customers tend to fall into two categories. One side of our business is picking from our core range and building up pallets for large customers to breakdown and distribute to their customer base. Our third party side, where we often send small parcels of one or two items direct to our customer’s customer,” Torrible explains.

For a business that that relied heavily on supplying to businesses, the rise in working from home across the UK has unsurprisingly affected it “Coronavirus has had a big impact on NWT in how we usually operate. The bulk side is usually a lot busier, however with so many businesses being closed, and so much more ordering being done at home online, the third party customers have massively increased. Our usual delivery drivers have been spending most of their days packing these orders.”

However, picking these orders out of the warehouse was not easy as it first appeared. Think back to March and hand sanitisers, toilet Rolls and face masks were being panic bought all over the country. This was a positive for NWT initially as it had always stocked these products, but demand was hard to keep up with and so it had to start fulfilling orders based on specific history.

“There was definitely a massive upsurge in sales due to the pandemic,” he explains.

Business development manager Ryan Torrible

“Every cleaning product we stocked had been cleared out, with manufacturers and suppliers having to put allocations in place based on previous orders and particular needs. We are lucky we have such good supply all year round as we have been able to help a lot of our customers in need.”

With the country now slowly returning to normality, NWT can now focus on its defined strategy for the next few years – one that is based on recruiting a younger workforce, creating a more sustainable business and increasing the product range.

“When you are used to doing something a certain way you think it’s the best way. Learning these new products and new systems is a challenge but we bring our expertise to these new areas and it helps us grow, concludes Torrible.

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Paul Hill
Paul Hill is the Editor of Better Wholesaling. Paul can be found on Twitter on @BW_PaulHill, or can be contacted via paul.hill@newtrade.co.uk and 020 7689 3376.

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