Wholesalers are yet to make up their minds on the importance of local sourcing or how best to capitalise on what is becoming a significant battleground for independent retailers.
Countless successful and innovative independent retailers, such as Harry Tuffins and Stans Superstore, have pledged to drive the number of local lines they sell in their stores. However, only 57% of the wholesalers who responded to our latest reader panel believe local sourcing represents a real opportunity for the wholesale sector.
Despite high-profile campaigns from wholesalers such as MBL and Booker, it remains the case that local sourcing does not show up on the radar for more than 40% of wholesalers.
One leading cash & carry operator says that local sourcing is a better fit for cash & carry rather than delivered wholesalers. This is because it fits well with the environmental debate about food miles, he says, adding that local sourcing will work more effectively for small suppliers by reducing the miles they accumulate travelling from store to store.
The most surprising result of our survey is that despite these high-profile campaigns, the majority of retailers in the independent and convenience sector do not appear to be interested in local or even fresh food.
Only 29% of the wholesalers we polled say that demand for local goods from retailers has increased. This statistic belies much of what industry leaders continue to highlight as an area where smaller shops can truly tackle the multiples and win.
It could be the case that those retailers keen to develop their local ranges do not automatically turn to their regular wholesaler but look to deal directly with suppliers. It would appear that retailers are just as keen to persuade consumers that they can offer quality local and fresh products, so wholesalers need to convince the retailers that they can meet their needs.
This could take some time as only 57% of the wholesalers we spoke to are planning to increase the number of local ranges they stock this year.
Local sourcing may well be an industry buzz phrase at the moment, but it seems that it could be a relatively slow process before wholesalers and retailers fully embrace the benefits. However, there are signs that wholesalers are beginning to follow the lead of some of the bigger players.
One wholesaler, who is generally sceptical about local sourcing, says that although there was not a great deal of demand for a wide range of local goods, he would be looking to work more closely with local butchers wherever possible.