Central Meridian Spar wholesaler AF Blakemore undertook a “root and branch overhaul” of its fresh produce offer last summer, when it was faced with falling sales and disillusioned customers in the 194 Spar outlets in its Tates stores division.
The company brought in a range of new measures designed to turn its fresh produce business around. It appointed eight suppliers to be “category partners”, switched emphasis from loose to pre-pack, introduced date coding and ramped up its in-store promotional activity. It also
decided to distribute fresh produce centrally, which meant a new fresh produce operations manager could monitor the quality of produce going out.
The shake-up extended to Blakemore’s fresh flowers offer, which it stopped distributing through its chilled foods depot and instead contracted forecourt retail specialist Flowerfete to supply Tates’ Spar stores direct.
A year later, sales of fresh produce have risen by 30%, while sales of cut flowers and plants are up by 200%.
The shake-up earned Blakemore a shortlisting in the prestigious Grocer Gold Awards last month.
Blakemore fresh produce trading controller David Morris said: “The results have been nothing short of remarkable. Now that we have raised the bar we have to maintain these standards in the long term.”
He said more double-digit sales growth was forecast.
Besides Tates’ Spar stores, there are now around 300 independent Spar retailers in the Midlands, north Wales, East Anglia and north London taking Blakemore fresh produce. Morris said the company would target another 200 in the near future.