Yulia Goodwin is the head of trading and marketing at buying group Sugro
The effects of the coronavirus are now being felt across all sectors and wholesale has been impacted in a number of different ways, with the full effect to be seen once we are back to “normal” trading conditions.
However, it is hard to define what will be classed as “normal” in the months to come. The world is changing, and we are all changing with it. Businesses that will bounce back positively will be the ones that embrace the crisis, think outside the box, and adapt their operations.
Wholesale is a vital part of the supply chain, providing services to many independent stores across the country, care homes, hospitals, remote communities, as well as villages beyond supermarkets’ reach. Many independent retailers that are served by wholesalers provide vital services to communities including vulnerable members of the UK society with some of them not being able to get to large supermarket stores – this is why we are asking all suppliers to support our wholesalers and local communities in these difficult times.
At Sugro, we are working very closely with our 88 members both collectively and individually to help them with their continuous growth. Our wholesalers have a diverse customer base and have been impacted in a variety of ways.
With the shutdown of many foodservice customers, wholesalers had to look at alternative supply options once they saw a sharp fall in demand. This is why they are being encouraged to offer a click & collect service and deliveries to the general public, with many of our members now offering these options.
The coronavirus has had both a negative and positive effect on our members. Whilst some have seen a reduction in sales, others have been trying to battle through unprecedented demand from their customers with sales reporting a huge increase, year on year.
Disruption in the supply chain, which resulted in stock shortages of certain key products in high demand, has been one of the main issues for wholesalers facing unparalleled demand from their customers. With certain suppliers still favouring supermarkets over wholesalers when it comes to delivery and allocations. However, many of our supplier partners have been incredibly supportive.
To ensure our members get the support they require we have been working closely with the suppliers on different support options that vary on a member to member basis. This included credit terms relaxation, clearance support, bonus off invoice promotions where possible, prompt payments and increased stock availability across key lines.
We have now also moved to a weekly pay out cycle to ensure that members get their payments quicker to help with the cash flow, which is very important for all businesses right now.
With digital playing such an important role, especially in these challenging times, we have also partnered with RNF to launch a free online ordering app for Sugro members, as we feel that amid the current situation, it is imperative that our members remain at the forefront of the move towards digital ordering.
This platform gives wholesalers an opportunity to provide the best customer service and experience via the app ordering facility and personalised marketing capabilities, such as product advertising and push notifications.
In addition to this, we are encouraging communication between our members and recently launched a WhatsApp and online forum for them. This is to help move stock between the group quicker and to help with the consistency of supply and clear any stock that members may require assistance with.
Read more: Sugro launches ordering app for members
Furthermore, we are working closely with the FWD to ensure our members are fully informed of all support that is available to them. It is good to see a high level of collaboration across the sector with wholesalers around the country coming together and working closely to protect the industry in the long-term.
There is no doubt that we are going through very challenging times, but we can get through this together by working closely with our supply partners, members and their customers as well as thinking outside the box and adapting to new ways of thinking and doing things.