Historic perceptions of wholesale were smashed at the FWD conference, writes ELIT ROWLAND
There are many preconceptions about wholesalers. Some see the channel as slow to change or nothing but ‘box-shifters.’ 3663’s Tim Adams even likened traditional views of wholesale to Only Fools and Horses’ Trotters Independent Traders.
But the reality is far from it. At the recent Federation of Wholesale Distributor’s (FWD) conference, presentations from three of the industry’s most forward-thinking players showed why. Together, they smashed these stereotypes and showed delegates why wholesale is not only an effective route to a million customers, it also has the flair, character and service to do it well.
As Imperial Cash & Carry’s Nikkita Mulchundani so eloquently put it,
“Anyone can put a margin on a case of beer and sell it – it takes character and flair to do it well. We represent a new way of doing things.” Imperial, a member of Today’s Group, started out as a business primarily serving off-trade specialists, but today the Enfield-based depot has branched out into other categories and a retail club that boasts 180 members.
The secret to success for the Mulchundani family is its customers. Mulchundani told delegates to “kill industry jargon” and that her “top-secret strategy” is simply to “speak to retailers in their language”. A majority of her customers are first-generation Turks and when I went to see the Enfield-based depot last year, there was plenty of Turkish signage around – even for recycling.
3663’s Tim Adams explained how good service is about going the extra mile and truly understanding your customers’ needs. The wholesaler has developed ‘street food’ to inject excitement into school dinners and finger food for care homes catering for people with dementia.
The business spends £200K a year on data to track where products are being sold and Adams listed some good ‘top tips’ for suppliers, including being careful about “forcing retail products into foodservice”.
Who says that wholesalers are behind when it comes to technology? While the channel overall may have catching up to do, with the likes of JW Filshill leading the way, the road to success is a sure one.
Managing director Simon Hannah explained that the new generation of wholesalers all face the same challenge: being as good as their ‘old man’. But technology will help to achieve this.
Filshill, also a member of Today’s Group, has enjoyed significant savings by investing in online ordering, electronic point-of-sale and technology to improve vehicle efficiency. More recently, the wholesaler took a brave leap into the social media world. Its first tweet read: ‘First official tweet from Filshill – please RT to get the network growing! Expect tonnes of engagement!’
These presentations showed that wholesale doesn’t just provide a route to a million customers – it gets to the heart and soul of each business. Whether it’s through Turkish depot signage or finger-food for people with dementia, wholesalers really know how to deliver.