Things have changed a lot since Mohammed Ghulam, general manager of Bestway's depot in Acton, London, entered the cash and carry trade 27 years ago. Much of that change has been for the better, he says. "There's much more professionalism than there used to be, in customer service, management, stock ordering and HR."

Bestway is a shining example of a company that is continuing to move with the times. It still predominantly serves traditional independent grocers, but it is increasingly branching out into the delivered market. "We are doing small deliveries mainly into the City for customers who find it difficult to reach us," says Ghulam.

These deliveries represent a small portion of the warehouse's overall business, but he anticipates that it will grow swiftly, as will foodservice and catering sales.

Acton will help to lead that charge with White Pearl, the company's own foodservice label. "Bestway is expanding catering ranges in quite a few cash and carries and we will be a part of that. At the moment only 1-2% of our business lies in catering, but that will probably more than double in the next five years."

In addition, frozen and chilled catering lines have been introduced to Acton in the past few months, he says. Some Batley's catering products have replaced the Best-in own label lines, following its acquisition by Bestway at the beginning of last year. The impact of the take-over continues to be felt in the ongoing roll-out of Batley's petfood products, one of its core strengths, into Bestway depots. "New petfood lines are coming on stream," says Ghulam. "But it's a gradual process."

Overall, more than 100 Batley's lines have been extended to the depot in the past year, he adds.

Other areas of change for Acton include the roll-out of Bestway's Cellar Estates wine range, launched in June. "It's a top performer," says Ghulam. "We're getting behind it and promoting it."

The range's success is helping to offset losses from retailers buying booze at cheap prices on the illicit market, he says.

The UK's increasing Polish population represents a further boost for Acton, which began listing Polish food lines six months ago. Ghulam says the products are selling well. In fact, the Polish community is the only immigrant minority in the area significant enough to have its own dedicated range, he says.

Acton has also benefited from an overhaul of Bestway's IT systems in the past two years, enabling it to introduce and track Trade & Save multi­buy deals, among other things. These are a small fraction of its total promotional offer, which is significant. Aside from the company's Best for Less and Diamond Deals quarterly promotions, the next major date in the calendar is Christmas. The depot has already kicked off its festive offers in earnest, with blocks of Christmas confectionery and biscuit deals stacked near the entrance.

Ghulam is confident the period will be lucrative, despite the fact that fireworks, the last focus for seasonal promotions, proved to be a damp squib this year. "They didn't sell as much as we'd hoped, because a lot of retailers got their own direct deliveries from specialists."

But he is optimistic about the remaining weeks of the year.n