Booker “now the UK’s biggest wholesaler”

Booker has leapfrogged Palmer amp; Harvey as the UK’s biggest wholesaler by turnover, according to a new report.

The Grocer magazine’s annual Big 30 Wholesalers report, the 2015 edition of which was published yesterday, put Booker at the top, with year-end turnover of £4.7bn. P amp;H was second, with £4.2bn. Brakes was third, with just over £3bn and Bestway fourth, at £2.4bn.

Booker also had the most depots (202), the biggest workforce (12,859) and the second-highest annual profits (£119m); Brakes was the most profitable wholesaler, with profits of £126m. According to the report (and available data), the Kent-based foodservice wholesaler also had by far the fattest margins in the Features > Business, at 4.2%, which is perhaps an indication of why so many wholesalers are looking at foodservice as a way to boost their turnover and profits.

The top 30 between them employ more than 76,300 people and have a combined turnover of just under £28.6bn; average margins across the industry are 1.5%. Fastest-growing wholesalers were Booker, drinks specialist Matthew Clark, Hancocks, DCS and Reynolds Catering Supplies, all of whom chalked up double-digit growth.

Reflecting the health of the sector, the top 30 are employing moe staff (up 5.6% on last year), opening more depots (there are 7% more now than in February 2014), and overall, sales are up 4.5%.

Also in the top 10 are (in descending order): Bidvest 3663, Connect Group (a specialist book, newspaper and magazine wholesaler formerly known as WHSmith News), Costco, Menzies Distribution (another news wholesaler), AF Blakemore and Musgrave. 

Best-performing group was Landmark (eight of the top 30, with Blakemore leading the way), followed by Today’s (five, with Dhamecha coming out top). Five of the top 30 were Spar wholesalers, outlining the importance of symbol retailing.

Report author, The Grocer‘s deputy news editor Beth Brooks, said: “[In contrast to the Big Four supermarkets] the wholesale sector has been buoyed  by both the growth of the convenience sector and a strong recovery in foodservice reflecting an improving economy.”

And Today’s Group MD Bill Laird added: “This is a great indicator of the resilience and long-term commitments of our wholesalers to the independent sector.  The retailers, caterers, food outlets and publicans that our members work with have aligned themselves to wholesalers that are strong, forward-thinking and who will be around for the long term.”

We’ll be featuring a more in-depth analysis in the March issue of Wholesale News. In the meantime, the full Big 30 report is available to purchase (free for Grocer Gold and Platinum members) here.

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