Dean Moffat has spent most of his life working in the cash and carry industry, so when he was headhunted to become manager of AC Ward’s depot in Sudbury three years ago, he didn’t hesitate to move.
“I was getting increasingly disillusioned where I was working at Booker, and the attraction with AC Ward was that it was a throwback to the environment I enjoyed when I joined the industry.”
Moffat says his post at the wholesaler, which is a member of buying group Key Lekkerland, is now much more hands on. Much of the buying is actually done by himself, and he appreciates the fact that he now knows many of his customers by their first names.
“It’s nice to see this kind of personal service again after 20 years – I also have a much closer contact with suppliers.”
The scale of the business was much smaller than Moffat was used to at his previous job and the depot’s small turnover was in decline in 2002 when he joined the company.
“My approach was to go back to basics. We did a lot of re-ranging and tidying up the pricing structure around the depot."
“In the first year the growth was 26.3% and this year there is double figure growth on top of that.”
Moffat says that around the time he joined, the business was very weighted towards catering but his background was more with retail.
“When I started the average spend by retail customers was £500 per week but now it is up to £5,000.
Moffatt says the business of boosting sales has not just been about aiming at cheap prices. “‘Stock it high and sell it cheap is what cash and carry is all about and I still have some of this mentality with me, but there is a lot of business in this area, both retail and catering, so we had to get the range and prices right to get this business in.”
The strategy for the future is to continue to grow sales and offer a good service to customers, says Moffat, but the company will also be keeping an eye on all the latest trends.
“We are planning to introduce a range of electrical products next year, and I think that this will go down really well with our customers.”
And he says it’s important to keep the cash and carry outlet looking good for the retailers who visit it.
“We also plan to refit the depot in the first quarter of 2006, which will most likely involve updating merchandising material and refreshing things such as signage.”
The Sudbury depot is one of two sheds operated by AC Ward, the other being in Thurrock, Essex, which is also the location of its headquarters.