But as he walks across the site, Yip is unhappy with the height of the entry foyer. “I have told them to raise the ceiling,” he says, “It is too low. We want customers to come into a cheerful space when they enter.”
This attention to detail is typical of the man in charge of the 30th ranked wholesaler in our most recent Big 30.
The redevelopment of the Cricklewood outlet marks the latest phase in the company's development. When the project is completed by summer 2007, the size of the store will have tripled to 64,000sq ft and it will employ 100 workers, 40 more than at present.
The first phase of the project, which will be complete by the end of this month, creates new selling and cold storage space and includes a 150 car underground parking garage with 12 foot ceilings to accommodate trade vehicles.
In the second phase of the project, much of the existing selling space is to be turned into a Chinese restaurant and meeting rooms. There will also add a business centre and more wholesale selling space, including a franchised stationery store and fish wholesale counter.
Yip stresses the company adopted the franchise approach for the fish and stationery business because he believes it should focus on its strengths. Wing Yip specializes strictly in oriental and ethnic groceries for the restaurants and catering businesses which make up 85% of its customers base and 95% of turnover.
The company does not stock mainstream staples such as bread, eggs or milk. Yip says: “The first thing I do when I hire new managers is to tell them: 'Please don't try to turn Wing Yip into a Tesco. We must stay in our niche.'“
Wip Yip now operates 4 cash & carry supermarkets, in Manchester, Birmingham, Croydon and Cricklewood. The company had turnover of £79m in 2006, 6.8% more than the previous year. Yip expects the Cricklewood redevelopment to swell those numbers considerably, though he will not be drawn on his targets. “Anything I would tell you would be pulled out of thin air”, he says, “But we are confident that it will be profitable.”
Yip says the Cricklewood redevelopment was driven by his observation that the store was generation turnover disproportionate to its size, as well as an assessment of its catchment area. Cricklewood sits in a densely populated corner or northwest London, stocked with second and third generation middle class immigrant families. Brent Cross, Kilburn and Edgeware all lie a short ride away, as do the A4, A10 and M4 highways.
Yip says that even the presence of a Bestway depot directly across the street from the Cricklewood outlet has not affected its sales. He says: “It is a good location with a large mass of middle class foreigners. There is room for us all here.” Bestway has been growing aggressively for the past few years and has so far been rebuffed in its bid to acquire Nisa-Today's, in which Wing Yip is a member.
Yip declines to express an opinion on the Nisa-Today's situation, but says Bestway has not made any approach for his company directly.
Yip says his company's core Chinese product lines continue to grow steadily but slowly. Sales of spices and sauces for other oriental foods, particularly Malaysian, Filipino and Thai, are growing faster than Chinese foods.
To build on, the company this has hosted a series of live Malaysian cooking demonstrations for the past three years. The series will continue this autumn. They are operated by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation, which Yip says has been aggressively seeking to expand the country's export trade.
Another area in which the company has seen strong growth is sales to the Afro-Caribbean and Middle Eastern communities. Yip points that however that the bulk of his company's product lines actually span these different cuisines.
“The staples are quite similar”, he says, “Rice, oils, flour, vegetables. Even some of the spices are similar too. What is different is the sauces and the method of cooking. So we are well positioned to build on growth in these different areas.” He adds: “We shouldn't call this an 'oriental cash and carry' anymore. We should call it 'international cash and carry', because that is what it really is now.”
Wing Yip is also continuing with growth plans across the country. Once the Cricklewood site is completed, the company will begin construction of its 5th outlet on a site it has already acquired in Cardiff. A sixth superstore is planned for Nottingham in 2008 and the company is in the process of deciding on its precise location.
Store Numbers: 4
Number of Employees: 300
Growth year-on-year: 6.8%
Type of operation: Cash & Carry, Retail Supermarket, Delivered Wholesale