Williams joined Holmes Wholesale Services, a Today’s Group member, in January 2004 as manager of its Ballymena depot, one of seven owned by the company. However, he picked up most of his market insights during the nine years he spent with Iceland. “Coming from a retail background definitely helps,” Williams explains.
“I know what retailers are looking for and I think that I have a pretty good idea of what sort of deals will work. Quite simply, retailers are mainly concerned with the net cost. When it comes to promotions, they want to know how much each item is actually costing them.”
What retailers are increasingly looking for is getting their goods delivered. Williams says: “Delivered wholesale is getting more and more popular. It has grown massively in the past few years and now represents about 50% of our business. In fact, this is reflected in the company name, which was changed to Holmes Wholesale Services from Holmes Cash and Carry two years ago.”
Williams has a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm for the wholesale business. He has employed a modern management approach, which is in keeping with the continuing modernisation of the business.
“I like to make sure that all the staff are kept up to speed on exactly what is happening in the business. I have weekly meetings with the whole team to explain how the business is performing and what effect our various promotions have had on sales,” he says.
“Some of the staff who have been with the company for a long time asked me why I was doing this, as no-one had done so before. At the end of the day, the store only works because of them. They implement the promotions and help sell the goods, so the more they understand why we are doing it, the better. Coming to the same place to work day-in, day-out is naturally going to become a bit routine, so it helps to give the staff some sense of ownership of the store,” he added.
Williams says there is still plenty of scope to build the cash and carry business in Ballymena. However, the growth in the delivered wholesale side looks set to continue through the depot with the acquisition of a new seven-and-a-half-tonne truck. The store currently runs its operation using only a van, so the new truck will deliver greater efficiency and reach more customers.
For Williams, it is an exciting time.