How to optimise your wholesale operation

Wholesale News Dec 2015Christine Edwards, Director at Big River Solutions provides some thought-provoking advice for grocery wholesalers.

A shopper is a shopper. No matter what environment they are in, be it retail, online or in a wholesale depot, a shopper is a person with intent to purchase. And it’s your job to make that as profitable as possible for your wholesale operation.

Changes in the convenience

Serving the convenience store sector has never been as demanding – nor as potentially rewarding – as it is today.

People will always need food and drink. Which means the UK’s grocery market is only going to increase in value, with the IGD predicting it will be worth more than £200bn by 2020. The engines for growth are likely to be online sales, discounters and convenience stores.

Convenience stores are increasingly popular. They are the most-used type of grocery format, with people visiting them 12 times a month on average. They benefit from being visible and available with easy access in many communities. With today’s shoppers tending towards smaller, more frequent shopping missions, convenience stores are increasingly used for top-up shops as well as distress purchases.

The more creative convenience stores – and those most likely to reap the rewards – are those that look to delight their shoppers. Embracing additional services – food-to-go, parcel delivery and collection services, hot food and drink facilities – all provide shoppers with reasons to visit aside from purchasing provisions. And every visit is an opportunity to delight the shopper by anticipating what they need and delivering products and services that exceed expectations.

Wholesalers should look to tailor what they supply, and how they deliver that supply, in order to reflect the changing needs of their convenience store customers. Providing convenience stores with solutions to their own and their customers’ needs is key to keeping ahead of the game.

Making life easier

Like most working people, those using wholesalers are time-poor and will appreciate efforts made to make their lives easier. Keep your overall objective simple – make a visit to your depot an experience that encourages revisit and creates loyalty.

Methods you can employ to enhance your customers’ experience start with signposting brands to help navigation. Using point-of-sale and merchandising that is available to you to highlight brand-leaders and fast-selling products will speed up a shopping mission. Although beware of using too much – you want the messages to be clear and the products to remain visible! And, where relevant, use technology to enhance a visit to your depot – think of improving checkout operations, installing audio-visual displays, sending e-mail newsletter communications.

Keep in mind that shoppers visiting wholesalers are accustomed to shopping in retail. This means that the behaviour learned in a supermarket will cross over to other environments, including wholesale. It is helpful to the shopper to have a high quality and consistent shelf layout and for offers to be clearly communicated. Shelf space should be given to reflect the potential value of sales of the lines, with ticketing to ensure that the lines hold their space.

It is a great idea to allocate a member of staff to be responsible for each category and so improve the service you provide. Ensure you supply resources and training that will enable your team to offer sound category-based advice that will help retailers to grow their sales. Using a category approach will also help you ensure that you give opportunities for new products to be understood and achieve the success they deserve.

Your stock levels should reflect demand, with 100 per cent availability being the goal. Think ahead, so that the merchandise you offer is tailored to reflect seasonal swings in demand and ensure that retailers receive timely advice on what they will need. Reflect on your position on a regular basis, analysing sales and availability, so that you optimise the use of space and consider stock levels to learn what does – and doesn’t – sell.

Lastly, make sure you stay ahead of the game by doing all you can to understand what is happening outside your depot – read trade press and listen to your customers and suppliers.

Wholesalers who work to ensure that they understand their customers – the type of stores they run, who is shopping there and why – are those that will win the day.

Big River Solutions provides creative and pragmatic solutions in category development and shopper marketing.