A Scottish Highlands wholesaler that lost a quarter of its staff following the arrival of a Tesco store hailed as 'Britain's greenest supermarket', in Wick, has responded in style.

Adding a wind turbine to a recently installed solar roof, Sutherland Brothers will be self-sufficient energy wise next year and further hi-tech investments are also being introduced to help it compete.

When the 50,000 sq ft wooden-framed Tesco store opened last November it took on 300 local people, including 10 of Sutherland Brothers' 40 employees, including its depot manager.

Sutherland Brothers sales & marketing director Colin Sangster said the sudden staff loss was higher than anticipated and had a major impact on how the company did business.

"When a Tesco arrives on your doorstep you expect to lose some staff," said Sangster, "but we didn't think a quarter would go. Plus good staff are not always easy to replace in a small community."

Sangster, speaking at the Scottish Wholesale Association annual conference in Dunblane, added that the company had to rethink rather than replace the lost employees.

Orders are now picked at night via a new £50,000 voice-picking system, which he said made the wholesaler less reliant on experienced staff and had brought "big benefits" in six weeks.

"The system has led to improved accuracy of orders reducing the need to check them and thus much greater productivity."

And Sutherland Brothers, like Tesco, is attempting to boost its green credentials. The wholesaler is looking to install a wind turbine and said that a solar roof, which cost £30,000 last year, had reduced total energy costs by 25%, he added.

The wind turbine would help Sutherland Brothers reach its goal of becoming completely self-sufficient in terms of its energy needs.

The wholesaler, a member of buying group Landmark Wholesale, recorded a turnover of £10m for the year to April 2007.

Sangster said that it remained committed to the roll out of the group's HotHouse retail development programme, but warned it would not deal with "promiscuous retailers who are only interested in price."