It’s official! Palmer & Harvey McLane is the UK’s biggest wholesaler, according to a new survey by this magazine, dubbed The Grocer Big 30.
P&H, which reported £3.53bn in sales in the last financial year, supplies 61,000 independent and multiple retailers. It claims more than half of the multiples’ share of tobacco sales and supplies key products to more than three quarters of multiple off-licences.
Graham McPherson, MD, said: “P&H is delighted to be named as the number one UK wholesaler. Despite fundamental changes in market structure, we have continued to grow our market share and are well positioned to develop the business profitably into the future.”
However, major changes in the industry including the likely acquisition of Booker by Icelandic group Baugur and the proposed merger
of Bestway and Batleys look set to change next year’s top 10 rankings. Booker, the UK’s largest C&C operator, runs a close second in The Grocer’s wholesaler ranking, with full-year sales of £3.49bn. But its future remains uncertain as Baugur pursues its £326m bid for parent company the Big Food Group. Rumours that Booker plans to close up to 40 of its depots have been denied by Bill Grimsey, BFG chief executive.
Last week we revealed that Bestway, ranked sixth in The Big 30, was in talks to acquire eighth-place Batleys - a deal that would create a new number three in our ranking. At the same time, foodservice operator 3663 clinched a £1bn contract to supply KFC, which could see it leapfrog past arch rival Brakes next year.
Despite the ongoing consolidation in the independent retail sector, the wholesale sector is thriving, according to The Grocer’s figures. The top six wholesalers chalked up sales of more than £1bn in the last year. And 24 out of the top 30 saw growth in their latest annual sales figures.
David Gordon, IGD business manager, said the challenge for wholesalers in 2005 was to retain and increase business in the face of the continued consolidation of retail customers: “As major supermarkets and co-ops continue to grow market share, independent operators are coming under increasing pressure. Wholesalers must continue to use their experience and expertise to support their independent customers.”