Birthdays are about receiving presents, right? Not at Bellvue. Instead, the wholesaler is treating customers to a year of promotional offers. Nick Hughes reports

Bellevue isn't one to let recession get in the way of a party. In celebration of its 40th year, the family-owned Scottish wholesaler is running its biggest series of price promotions since John Benson set up the business in 1969.

Now in the hands of his sons George and Graham, Bellevue is due to launch its third three-week-long price cut promotion of the year at the start of next month.

As well as a thank you to its customers, the promotional blitz is also Bellevue's chance to raise its public profile, says sales and marketing director Colin Smith. "It's easy to get forgotten when you're a local business rather than a national name, so you have to work hard to get noticed."

The tactic seems to have worked. Bellevue's sales are up 7% year-on-year for the period from March to August, Smith reports. Innovative promotions such as Ruby Tuesday, where four key lines are reduced to "stupid prices" every Tuesday of each three-week promotional period, have helped grow existing trade as well as attract new customers.

"Between March and November we'll have had 25 key birthday promotions, which is an extremely strong promotional package considering we would normally only do 13 in the year," Smith says.

The company is also joining the trend towards round pound price points, recently introducing a 'Poundzone' range to its two depots in Stirling and Edinburgh. The range of 50 household, toiletries and health & beauty products, supplied by wholesaler DCS Europe, makes an average gross profit of 33% for retailers, who also get a free display unit if they buy 12 or more cases.

"One pound is the UK's fastest-growing price point," says Smith. "We're actively promoting it to the retailer, saying, 'there's a huge opportunity that can be incremental to your business because these are lines you've not stocked before, they're only £1 and there's PoS material as well for you'."

Bellevue thrives on its reputation for being as competitive as its national rivals or more. But price isn't the only weapon in its armoury. Location is a key advantage, says Smith. "We're the only city centre wholesaler, so you either come to Bellevue or you have to drive to the outskirts."

There's no need for retail or foodservice customers to look beyond Bellevue, according to Smith. The wholesaler carries a bigger range than some national rivals, he claims, highlighting its in-store fruit and veg markets and in-store butcher. In Stirling, where businesses are scattered over a larger area than in Edinburgh, Bellevue also offers a delivered service.

"For a family business, we're punching well above our weight," says Smith. "When you consider the competitors we have on our doorstep Makro, Costco, Booker we've bigger depots than some of those."

Bigger, perhaps, but not big enough. The potential of the Edinburgh market is so great that Bellevue is fast outgrowing its current premises. "If we want to grow and increase our services to customers, we'll need to expand the site."

More reason to let the good times roll.