Andy Dennis, general manager of Blakemore Wholesale’s flagship 79,000 sq ft C&C depot in Walsall, West Midlands, has a hands-on approach to his work. “As a manager you can’t just sit in your office all day,” says Dennis, who has been general manager at the depot for 18 months. “You have to go out into the depot and talk to your customers and staff.” 

Dennis makes sure that he takes time out every day to tour the depot and meet the 6,000 customers who visit it. And this approach has definitely been successful, with customers knowing him by name and greeting him like an old friend. Dennis has worked for 23 years at Blakemore, having joined the company straight from school on a youth training scheme. In the course of his career, he has worked at depots in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Lye, and has also done stints at Barnsley and Grimsby, helping with the refurbishment and layouts of the depots there. “I was one of the staff and worked my way up the career ladder, so I know what it’s like and how I would like to be treated by a manager,” he says. “I want to talk to people in the same way that I would want to be talked to. If the staff are working well and are happy, it rubs off on the customers, which can only be a good thing.” 

Getting on with the customers also means that Dennis is in a great position to tell people about Blakemore’s recently rebranded retail club Lifestyle Express, which has been running for more than 10 years. “We’ve got 44 members at the moment and another three in the process of converting. We also have a sales force that’s out on the road trying to recruit new members and helping existing members in their stores,” says Dennis.
Dennis says that being general manager at Walsall keeps him on his toes and he’s always busy. The depot was refurbished in March last year and he is currently concentrating on expanding its delivery service, which accounts for approximately 30% of its annual £35m turnover. “We have extended the delivery side because it has been growing at a steady pace and we need to cope with the extra business that has been coming our way.”

He’s also busy with the ongoing streamlining of the depot’s non food offer. “We used to offer the full range – from electrical to perfumes to fancy goods, but we are restructuring because the scale is not big enough,” says Dennis. “Supermarkets such as Tesco are selling televisions for £50 and we obviously cannot compete with that, so we will remain in the fields in which we are doing well such as seasonal lines and stationery.”