The magic number

A three-tiered approach has helped Parfetts’ retail club reach 1,000 members, writes Elit Rowland

When David Grimes (pictured) stepped up to become the managing director of Parfetts two years earlier than scheduled, there was a lot he needed to do to make the business better.

“We lagged behind our competitors in some ways,” he says. One of the most important changes he had to make was appointing Andy Whitworth to co-ordinate all the company’s customer offerings.

“We are more focused on working closer with customers – giving them a good, all-round package that makes life easier,” explains Grimes. “The new customer development role has really helped to improve this and we are seeing increased sales from certain customers.”

It’s not easy making a warehouse look pretty, but Parfetts has done a good job. Not only have the signature red floors and branding helped the wholesaler to stand out from the crowd, the Stockport depot is now implementing a visual strategy to turn the warehouse into a ‘retail hub’.

“Being a retailer is quite a lonely experience – you can be alone in your shop for 16 hours at a time – so it’s important to make the depot inviting, not just from a social point of view, but also with regards to information on new products and market trends,” explains Guy Swindell, Parfetts marketing and PR manager.

To address this need, the depot has put up 3m x 1m drop-down light boxes on the wall at till point, helping to highlight key messages. And the next step is to introduce LCD TV screens, playing a mixture of promotional and educational material from key suppliers.

Swindell explains, “Part of our job is to develop our retailers – we want them to keep up to date with market trends, as well as use the depot as a hub.”

To truly offer a one-stop-shop to retailers, the depot also has a customer cashpoint, as well as a cafeteria. The wholesaler doesn’t offer a delivery service at the moment, but the Direct Load area enables retailers to buy in bulk online through Click & Collect or via telesales, drive up to the depot and have their goods loaded to their vehicle by Parfetts staff.

While retailers can deal with buyers at central trading, customers buying in bulk also have access to six local buyers based at the Stockport branch. It’s this focus on the retailer that has driven much of the group’s recent success.

Picture Parfetts: depot tour,

Perhaps the biggest testament to this customer focus is the success of the Go Local Retail club, which recently hit a milestone of 1,000 members after being relaunched at the start of the year in a three-tier format.

While the club is nothing new – the first Go Local started about 12 years ago – its initial model was a one-size-fits-all approach. However, over the years, as the number of products on promotion and the size of retail members grew, a new model was needed.

Today, the three tiers – Go Local for small retailers, Go Local Plus for medium-sized retailers, and Go Local Extra for larger stores with the highest standards and best compliance rates – offer customers an approach that is tailor-made to their needs.

Despite the success of the club, only 100 of the 1,000 members are Go Local Extra retailers with compliance rates of 95-100%. Go Local Plus is at 60% plus and rates aren’t recorded for the bottom tier, so there’s a lot to play for.

When I ask Grimes where he sees the group in five years’ time, he has high hopes of members moving up to the highest tier. But good execution is critical and the group fosters a no-nonsense ­approach.

“We incentivise the best retailers with a rebate for good compliance,” he explains.

But it only takes a few ‘bad eggs’ to spoil things. “Sometimes, you get one or two customers whose execution of promotions is poor and they bring down the reputation of the whole group.
“We let these ones go. After all, retailers talk and if word gets around in the cash & carry, everyone will take the same approach.”

Foodservice feelers

With a customer base that’s 95% retailers, Parfetts’ main focus is general grocery, but the business is still putting the foodservice-feelers out, with a dedicated area just for ­caterers.

“Our knowledge and experience is in retail, but we recently appointed Becky Webster as head office trading catering controller to look at the catering needs of the company as a whole, because we do see there are opportunities here.”

Another big change was the appointment of a new PR and marketing manager, Guy Swindell, to make sure that the depot looks fresh and current, consider the way technology is changing the business and tap into social media.

“Traditionally wholesalers are slow to take on technology and social media – but those important areas need someone who is keen and dynamic,” says Grimes.

“Guy also looks after all of our promotional literature, as well as our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. We’re onto our third version of the website in the past 18 months.”

He adds that while Parfetts doesn’t have online ordering, it does offer a system that picks up orders online – something it is looking at integrating into the website.

“We know that there will be more demand to do this,” he says. “Click & Collect only accounts for 5-10% of sales, but it’s definitely a growing area.”

Grimes knows c‑stores’ future looks good. While the multiples may take a big slice of the pie, there’s still a good opportunity for symbol groups. “That’s why we are putting so much focus on developing our retailers, from the bottom tier to Go Local Extra.


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