Dhamecha C&C is upbeat about further growth, says Beth Brooks

Pradip Dhamecha, chief executive of the London-based wholesaler Dhamecha Cash & Carry, isn’t superstitious. “The number 13 may be unlucky for some, but it is a lucky number for us,” he says, referring to the company’s ranking in The Grocer’s Big 30.
“I can certainly see some growth coming through in the next three years.”
The company hasn’t done too badly so far. Dhamecha C&C was founded in 1976 by Pradip’s father and uncles, who started the business from a 7,000 sq ft building based in Wembley, north-west London.
Dhamecha now controls five C&C operations covering almost 500,000 sq ft in the London and M25 area.
It offers about 12,000 products to a predominantly retail customer base, serving c-stores, off-licences, newsagents, pharmacy, clubs, bars and restaurants.
Earlier this year the wholesaler recorded an annual turnover of £270m, which, says Dhamecha, gives it ammunition to climb further up The Big 30 ranking.
Key to this growth is expansion. Dhamecha is actively seeking the right location in which to open depot number six and hopes to secure a site within the next three to four months.
“There was a site that we identified a few months ago but unfortunately a property developer came in and snapped it up. There are one or two locations that we are actively pursuing at this stage,” Dhamecha adds. Although the locations are being kept firmly under wraps, Dhamecha says that the site will be in the London area. “Our focus is London. We think that there are still opportunities for us in the area and it will remain our focus for the next three years at least.”
However, Dhamecha is approaching further growth with caution. “We need to remain focused on our existing branches and ensure there is growth there rather than taking on new openings for the sake of it.”
The company faces the same day-to-day issues as major wholesalers across the UK, he reasons. Changes to licensing laws due in November and the aftermath of the London bomb attacks are just two of these.
“The biggest continuing problem we face is the growth of the multiples in the c-store sector, which has had a huge impact on the trading climate,” says Dhamecha.
“If they continue to make inroads into the sector, the fabric of society will totally change from being a community-based high street to a place where consumers actually have to drive to out-of-town stores.”
Dhamecha believes that the multiples’ continued expansion of their product base is “decimating the high street”.
He believes the problem will only become noticeable when the ageing population finds it difficult to travel to out-of-town supermarkets and turns to local amenities - only to find they have been forced out of business by the multiples.
The independent sector must therefore fight for a fair share of the market, he says. “The independent sector must invest in its stores to ensure the shopping experience is pleasant and friendly enough so that the customer doesn’t always feel that they have to go to a major multiple to get what they want. Customer service is also important - if independents can guarantee good customer service every time, more people will be drawn to shop at their local store.”
Another problem that Dhamecha says is increasing at a worrying rate is the prevalence of rogue traders. “Rogue traders are a major issue for us. What they are able to do, especially on wine, beer, spirits, cigarettes and tobacco, is to offer their products at silly prices so that a level playing field is lost.”
Dhamecha says that the problem has become so widespread that the wholesaler has drawn it to the attention of HM Revenue & Customs and the police, but he believes that ideally the government should address the problem.
“The government should insist that all the store traders sell products as duty-paid only, so that we can claim back the duty. This, I think, will hopefully eliminate the problem straight away,” says Dhamecha.
“Unfortunately, EU regulations say not to sell stock duty-paid. But although we are caught in EU red tape, traders would ideally wish to have this in the marketplace.”