Derek O’Reilly is the managing director of O’Reilly’s Wholesale
What have you learnt from the past twelve months from the perspective of running a wholesale operation?
We have learnt resilience, to seise opportunity, to be agile and forward thinking and with speed, to pivot when we see that what we have may not be all that the consumer requires. We saw the appreciation in our employees that they were the fortunate ones and their jobs were safe, we learned that our people are our wealth and we needed to now above all other times, place our trust in them, look after them and to recognise that without them there would have been no growth, no expansion, no deliveries and ultimately a business on its knees. They all worked hard to prevent this, they worked even when they knew they were putting themselves and their families at risk. To all of them we are eternally grateful. Our people are our wealth has never rung louder.
How has your business changed since the pandemic hit?
O’Reilly’s Wholesale is both a very active and reactive business model – the company are active in finding the niche in the marketplace, whilst at the same time reactive to the requirements of the end consumer. Without doubt, trading through one of the most difficult years in terms of dealing with Covid-19 and the potential fallout of Brexit (something that is already now apparent) O’Reilly’s have been very fortunate to continue with their operations through resilience, seizing the opportunity to change, the speed to pivot and having the agility to do so.
Whilst this has allowed them success in the challenge of ending this awful year on a positive footing and in growth, some of that growth can be attributed to their ability to see that consumers required product delivered straight to their door and so off the pandemic their retail arm, Elzoor – you click, we pick was born. This is a locally delivered, click and collect or courier delivered service for further afield, selling all their sku’s in full cases for the convenience of not having to risk social transmission of the Covid-19 virus by having to visit the big supermarkets during a pandemic. O’Reilly’s see this as their positive pivot!
As we hopefully head into a post-Covid world, what advice/tips can you offer from what you’ve experienced?
Convenience was the brightest star in an otherwise dark and gloomy year. The surge in consumers shopping locally is having a very positive impact on the wholesale and ultimately the convenience sector in Northern Ireland. We now need to support our retail sector to capitalise on this and try to keep those new customers coming through their doors for this year and going forwards. Very often we at O’Reilly’s have seen that the more successful convenience stores can be found in the middle of the chimney pots!
Perhaps for us the biggest change we see for Northern Ireland Wholesalers is that were we once had a choice of 6 or 7 different pasta brands, we now may only have 3 or 4. Perhaps that’s no bad thing – our consumers will be permitted space to bring in new and different categories so their offerings actually expand. We must seize the opportunity to be positive and innovative. This will encourage all of us, wholesale and retail to look at consumer behaviour and trends.