Better availability, fewer ‘kidney punches’ and a more supportive government. Nine leading wholesalers talk Martyn Fisher through what they want to see in 2019

Craig Brown Retail sales director, JW Filshill
Craig Brown
Retail sales director,
JW Filshill

“Legislation in general requires a realistic view to be taken – it is very important that it does not overburden small business owners. Scottish retailers have had considerable amounts of legislation to deal with recently and we would hope that all forthcoming legislation, however important it may be, is easy to deal with. In Scotland, Personal Licence Renewals for alcohol need to be carried out, and 2019 is a big year, with the 10th anniversary of implementation. It is our hope that the renewal process goes smoothly and that common sense prevails at local Licensing Board level. On a lighter note, we hope that the summer of 2019 is as warm and sunny as the one we enjoyed in 2018.”

Rob Eastwood Managing director, Small Beer Wholesale
Rob Eastwood
Managing director,
Small Beer Wholesale

“2018 has mostly been a great year full of sun and football, but also with a few ‘kidney punches’ for wholesalers, too. It has felt tough when challenge after challenge has been hitting us. Issues such as General Data Protection Regulation and the carbon dioxide shortage put strain on the wholesale sector at a time of unprecedented warm weather and a miraculous World Cup run for England, all of which, in turn, have heaped lots of pressure on logistics for a variety of different reasons. Therefore, I am looking for 2019 to be a simpler, more predictable year, with far less red tape to worry about. Somehow, though, I think Brexit will put paid to that wish.”

Terry Larkin
Group general manager,
JJ Food Service

“I want to see the big issue resolved, which, of course, is Brexit. Going into the new year, customers, prospects and suppliers are all unaware of what will happen with any deal, and, therefore, what contingencies we are going to need to put into place. For example, should we be stockpiling goods? Should we be forward-purchasing things? Or should we just go with the flow, and take things as they come? As it stands, some of the tenders we are applying for are asking what our Brexit strategy is. But right now, quite frankly, it is an impossible question to answer. The sooner some light is shed on the situation, removing the uncertainty, the better for everyone.”

Chris Liu GM, business development, Cook’s Delights
Chris Liu
GM, business development,
Cook’s Delights

“I recently joined wholesale from the Silicon Valley tech industry. It has been very clear early on that this sector requires one quality more than anything else: graft. Technology does not eat, sleep or call in sick owing to a horrible hangover. The world of technology is not just reserved for businesses with the most money or the most tech-oriented staff – user-friendly software that offers more efficient ways of working abounds. Cloud computing, internal chat systems and email have all made offices more environmentally friendly, paperless and cost-efficient, for example. So, I would love to see more technology being used in wholesale, and more tech companies creating new systems for us to capitalise and thrive on.”

Matthew Moare Operations co-ordinator, Kentish Match Company
Matthew Moare
Operations co-ordinator,
Kentish Match Company

“I want to see better communication from suppliers. In the past few years, many suppliers have either merged or cut their pool of account handlers. This has led to a big void of information. I have many accounts where the role is still void after several months. This has had a detrimental effect on our business as our previous close relationships with suppliers allowed us to be quicker than the cash & carry sector to launch new products. We rely much more on information being filtered from our buying group, which does not always happen, as it has such a wide portfolio of products to deal with. Maintaining close links with our suppliers is crucial to our survival.”

Aris Poulis MD, JK Foods
Aris Poulis
JK Foods

“A number of conversations have occurred regarding the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and how it could affect sales. However, very little is said about the profit opportunities that this price differentiation has created, so it is important to focus on the opportunity, not only on the issue. I would also love to see an industry-wide focus on attracting good-quality people to make wholesale a sector that the new generation is willing to be a part of. It would be beneficial to see the Government better supporting businesses that are focusing on giving opportunities to the new generation. Companies should be putting more effort into creating proper training programmes and clear career paths for new and existing staff, too.”

Coral Rose MD, Country Range Group
Coral Rose
Country Range Group

“Among other things, the first of two issues our Country Range Group members would like to see resolved in wholesale in 2019 is legislation working in favour of our industry. A reduction in VAT in the hospitality sector would ease the financial pressures experienced by our customers since the Brexit referendum in 2016, which has paved the way to a rampant Foodservice Price Index. The second is improvement in supplier service levelsıb. It is a pretty sad situation when the first thing that comes to mind is stock availability from manufacturers. This is something that should be so simple, and yet not many of them can fulfil a single order. Far better communication is required from suppliers in general and on production issues in particular.”

Dawood Pervez MD, Bestway Wholesale
Dawood Pervez
Bestway Wholesale

“Availability this year has been the worst ever seen in wholesale, even before the hot weather and carbon dioxide shortage. I regularly walk around multiples to see stock of products that suppliers say are not available on allocation or are not being currently produced, and it is insulting. More importantly, it frustrates our customers, who, quite rightly, blame the wholesaler as they see the product in multiples as well. Bestway, Dhamecha, Parfetts and countless other independent wholesalers have been there when suppliers needed us and we now need them to up their game in 2019 and return the favour. Like our retiring MD, Martin Race, says: ‘Even with the best prices in the world, we cannot sell fresh air.’”

Denys Shortt CEO, DCS Group
Denys Shortt
DCS Group

“I want to see a major focus by the Government to listen to businesses. David Cameron’s administration was business-friendly – this one is not. It has failed to address the issue of high parking charges in town centres, which have risen over recent years and are killing the high street. Also, huge numbers of houses have and are being built without adequate masterplanning for roads. This is causing many towns to suffer increased traffic jams, making it harder to visit town-centre shops. Several online companies, meanwhile, have their accounting in offshore tax havens, enabling them to work at lower margins. This makes it unfair for the UK’s tax-paying businesses. The Government cannot continue to ignore these issues in 2019.”

Recent news: JJ Food Service extends healthy eating discount to Luton and Essex customers



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