For many years, and under different regimes, independent wholesalers traded against a market leader (by size at least) in Booker who appeared weak and directionless. This was good news in the short term, but most of us realised that a weak market leader was not good for the image of wholesaling as a dynamic viable sector worthy of supplier’s investment. Charles Wilson’s involvement has changed that position 180 degrees - he leads a strong business that was a formidable competitor even prior to news of the Makro acquisition.
It is, however, important that suppliers realise that the wholesale “route to market” is not just through Booker. Of course they are important as the biggest player, and were I in their trading team I would want to be the sole focus of attention, but with convenience representing the most dynamic sector of the grocery trade, there are fantastic opportunities for suppliers throughout the wholesale sector.
Many suppliers have huge experience in wholesale, and have been working with us to develop the opportunities, but younger people coming into the sector and developing their management skills and careers in fmcg may not realise that there is a wider world of opportunity out there.
Our annual Landmark conference in Istanbul three weeks ago enabled wide-ranging discussions of market developments and challenges, and was widely praised as a thought-provoking and stimulating event. Suppliers represented there already recognise the opportunities available to them, but by necessity numbers are limited and we need to develop knowledge in the wider supplier community.
There are always several ways to skin a cat, and wholesalers such as Parfetts, Hyperama, BA, Blakemore, Bestway, Dhamecha and Filshill to name but a few have exciting, fast-moving strategies to exploit the market dynamics and offer products and services which build real growth into trading activities.
I have always maintained that the greatest opportunities for ambitious national account managers to make a name for themselves lie in wholesale, rather than multiple retail. A good trading relationship and understanding of the dynamics of wholesale can easily double sales volumes, while however hard you work, you may add only single-digit growth in the heavily controlled multiple environment.
We respect and admire Booker, but urge suppliers not to miss out on the opportunities offered by other dynamic, fast-moving, entrepreneurial wholesalers who have different strategies and philosophies, but who are equally ambitious to successfully grow sales and our joint business.