Sir; I was very interested to read your coverage of The Grocer’s Big 30 list of leading wholesalers and the debate about the future of the cash and carry sector (January 28, p44).
Back in 1983 I carried out a research project while at Napier University in Edinburgh on the future of the cash and carry industry and it’s amazing that nearly 25 years on the same question is still being asked.
My project concluded that, while there would be a decline in the number of operators, cash and carries would survive. To ensure success, cash and carries would try to spread customer bases into areas like catering, that the Asian retailer would become a vital customer, that there would be more aggression in pricing and that more business guidance would be offered to customers at depots.
Interestingly, your article points out that very similar things are needed today to continue survival.
Cash and carries remain an important part of the UK grocery industry and, as your article concludes, will continue to do so, although as Bestway’s takeover of Batleys shows, size and financial strength will be vital to profitable trading.
Looking at some of the trading groups and firms that took part in my project and are no longer around or have been reinvented, confirms this: The Independent Cash & Carry Group, Consort, Target Food Group, Nurdin & Peacock, Linfood, Watson and Philip and Keencost, to name but a few.