In profile: Gary Timmins, general manager of Blakemore's Birmingham cash and carry

Gary Timmins has been a long-serving employee at Blakemore Cash and Carry, having worked for the company for a quarter of a century.

He started as a part-time employee on the checkout when he was doing his A Levels in 1981.

He became general manager six years ago at Blakemore's Birmingham warehouse, which has the largest floorspace of any of its cash and carries in the UK.

His latest role follows stints at other Blakemore cash and carry depots in Manchester and Wolverhampton.

In that time, there have been many changes in the cash and carry sector, he says. "The market for delivered cash and carry has definitely increased. It's not enough to wait for people to come to your door any more."

In tandem with that, cash and carries have had to raise their game, having to think about merchandising to attract retail customers in a way that retailers alone used to do.

You can see the results all around you as you walk into the Birmingham depot, which went through a substantial revamp 18 months ago.

Lighting was improved and floor covers were added, among other things. Sections are boldly labelled much as they would be in a large supermarket, and there's also a sampling area where shopkeepers can try out products with which they are unfamiliar. "The building is quite old and it needed sprucing up," says Timmins.

But he adds that the changes at the depot haven't stopped there. "We're looking to increase space for beers, wines and spirits, Asian food and soft drinks this year, all growth areas for retailers."

The depot has been supplied with 120 Asian food lines by fellow cash and carry TRS for the past year.

Timmins also says that he is toying with the idea of bringing confectionery to the front of the depot in order to boost sales in that category.

And he is aiming to build on the large non food offering at the depot with a range of fast-selling 'when it's gone it's gone' items, such as garden furniture and barbecue equipment.

"We're also considering delivering fresh food to caterers. We have been hit by a big decline in our catering business as people move over to foodservice operators who deliver to them."

But this year will be a special time for the depot, says Timmins. It is celebrating its 20th birthday this month and is planning to do so in some style.

"The celebrations will continue into next month, and they will include demonstrations, supplier activity, promotions and a raffle."