Botterills took a brave but worthwhile decision to carry out test purchases of alcohol on its own staff, said new managing director Lizette Craig at the annual conference last week.
Unlike England, trading standards departments in Scotland have no authority to carry out test-purchasing with underage children. However, Botterills is testing staff each quarter to reduce chances of losing a licence.
The chain has a ‘no ID, no sale’ policy for under-21s and has been sending 18-year-olds into every shop to monitor staff compliance. Craig said she was disappointed that 12 of the 38 stores failed the first test in March and that eight failed in June, but with extra training she is aiming for a 100% pass rate.
Craig’s appointment as MD followed her father, Jim Botterill’s resignation from the post to become part-time chairman. He is confident that the chain will continue to grow under the guidance of Craig.
“I cannot remember a time when there’s been so much change so quickly,” said Botterill. “But I can categorically say that we are not in talks with any major company to sell this business, despite many approaches.”
And he warned: “Suppliers and wholesalers have got to work with us to develop business in a profitable way.
Everyone has to realise that there has to be a vibrant independent trade or we’ll be left with the supermarkets.
“That will be as bad for suppliers as it would be for us.” The company said it had turned in a good performance this year, although it was disappointed to miss its gross profit target of 20% by 0.3%. Sales were up by 6% year-on-year to £59.6m and the net profit was £1.05m.
The two major challenges the chain currently faces, said Botterill, is the rise in stock loss due to staff theft and the price of products.
He said heavy investment in CCTV was planned to redress the first problem, but that it would take a major effort to counteract the squeeze on margins forced by the multiples.
“Trading relationships between wholesalers will have to grow,” said Botterill.
“Spar and Nisa and major cash and carry organisations will have to work together to drive costs down.”
Fiona McLelland