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Batleys’ operations director Martin Race said moves by suppliers to lower prices on price-marked products had helped its customers deal with January’s VAT

hike. However he expects consumer spending to be influenced by government cuts.

Smith was latterly employed by Bellevue.

Colin puts his Best foot forward

BESTWAY Group has made its first senior Scottish appointment since buying cash and carry business Bellevue last year. The company’s delivery arm, Bestway Direct, has named Colin Smith as its regional manager for Scotland.

Smith started his career with Bellevue after graduating from Napier University, but left for a stint at Costco in Edinburgh before returning to Bellevue in 2008, where he was laterally the company’s sales and marketing boss.

Smith will now be responsible for the growth of Bestway’s Best-one symbol group in Scotland, which has attracted 50 new Scottish members in the past eight months.

Meanwhile, Bestway has been awarded the Carbon Trust Standard in recognition of its efforts to cut carbon emissions. In the last three years the company has cut its carbon emissions by 1%.

Booker says thank you with vouchers

CASH and carry group Booker has thanked its customers for a successful year of trading by handing out savings vouchers worth a claimed £4 million. The company said sales grew by around £200m in the last year, and held a ‘thank you event’ between February 2 and 8 when customers could redeem their vouchers.

Deals included brands such as

Morgan’s Spiced, Strongbow, WKD Blue and Echo Falls. “Operating an independent business has never been more challenging and this is one way for us to say thanks to our customers for spending more with us,” said Booker catering sales chief Ron Hickey.

34 - SLTN - February 17, 2011

There may be trouble ahead

Supermarkets and economy the dual threats for wholesalers A

S the UK economy recovers slowly from recession, and debate rages over how far and how fast the coalition should be cutting public spending to narrow the deficit, wholesalers expressed concerned last week that the ‘age of austerity’ spells bad news for the sector.

Martin Race, operations director at Batleys, the fast-growing cash and carry division of the Bestway Group, said consumers remain concerned about the impact of the cuts. The implication is clear: the more jobs go, the more it will have a direct impact on the on and off-trade customers Batleys supplies.

“Unemployment rising never helps and this year is going to be tough unless they (the government) address this important issue,” Race said. Perhaps surprisingly, Batleys said January’s VAT increase had not presented too much of a problem to wholesalers and their retail customers, chiefly because many suppliers reduced the pricing on price-marked products.

But the fiscal strategies employed by

George Osborne and co are far from the only concern of the wholesale and cash and carry sector.

For Glasgow-based Filshill, the threat posed by the major supermarket groups constitutes perhaps the biggest concern faced by the many independent retailers it delivers to under the Keystore fascia. “The rapid expansion of the likes of Tesco Express is worrying, and I

believe it is totally wrong and unfair that independent retailers who want to develop their businesses are turned down for an ATM, alcohol licence or lottery terminal and then left confused and frustrated when Tesco moves in and manages to get all three in one go,” said sales director Ian McDonald. McDonald’s concerns are shared by Anshu Chandra at United Wholesale (Scotland), also based in Glasgow. “At one point you could look at the supermarkets as healthy competition, but we are at the point now where if you are not able to invest in supporting your retailers then there’s no room for you,” she said. There was a purple patch for wholesalers and cash and carry businesses which serve independent grocery stores before Christmas, however. As the road network was gripped by

freezing conditions in early December, local convenience stores benefited as consumers stopped going to the supermarket in their cars and shopped local on foot instead. But the upturn only lasted so long. “Initially, it was fantastic, because people were all shopping local,” McDonald said. “But once the weather improved and people were able to get out and about again, they went back to the supermarkets and were buying more there than usual.” SLTN has received anecdotal reports

from specialist on-trade wholesalers that Christmas turned out to be better than initially feared. An improvement

in weather conditions was sufficient to encourage people back into pubs and clubs, and even some of the parties postponed in December were re- arranged for January. But on the independent retail side

there was no such recovery on drinks sales: the deals on alcohol offered by the supermarkets at big events like Christmas just can’t be matched by convenience stores.

At United, Chandra said that although overall sales rose 10% over the Christmas period, sales of licensed goods were flat. George Benson, president of the Scottish Wholesale Association, said he had heard similar complaints from other SWA members. “Unfortunately, on the licensed side there literally isn’t any business because the multiples have it all, with their advertising campaigns and their crazy deal prices,” he said. “On the catering side, the biggest blow was consumers not getting to their Christmas parties. “The restaurants and bars that had taken deposits for Christmas parties have managed to secure some of that business back in January.

“But it looks like the foodservice side has suffered the most in the Christmas period.”

As for their plans for 2011, Filshill, United and Batleys said they will be focused on offering their customers good value throughout the year, as well as supporting retailers through their fascia groups.

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