Although he is always looking for new stores, one option he is exploring is a franchise scheme. While there are clearly bigger names on the market, dealing with someone who has trade experience and knowledge of the local market could make his offer attractive to independents, says Patel. “It’s just an idea at this stage, but I can see it working.”
However, he is still shopping around for the best supply deal after a rocky few weeks with Booker. With three stores turning over £100,000 a week between them, time pressures recently forced him to forgo trips to Dhamecha’s Barking Cash & Carry and opt for a delivered service instead. Booker’s Premier service was the best symbol package available for independents not wanting to make a major commitment and pay weekly charges, but the service has been patchy lately, claims Patel.
“The Premier concept is excellent, but I’m still not convinced by Booker as a delivered wholesaler. It promises 100% supply levels, but we sometimes get just 75-80%.
“Also, we don’t have access to what the substitutions will be if a line isn’t in stock, so we often get a substitution we don’t want.”
Similarly, disparities between what is ordered and what is delivered have meant a lot of paperwork and constant invoicing queries.
“If Booker does a promotional leaflet,” says Patel, “we set up all the promotions on our systems and allocate space on the shelf, then the order arrives and half the promotional lines aren’t there. It’s an administrative nightmare.”
With promotions every three weeks without a ‘cooling off’ period, shifting residual stock at the end of a promotion can also be a problem, he adds.
Although all his stores get deliveries from Booker, just one has been badged to Premier, he says. “The other two are on hold as we see how things go.”