Christmas cheer for wholesale industry

Many wholesalers have reported far better sales over Christmas than the major multiples, with both large and smaller businesses having a successful festive period.

On the same day Tesco reported like-for-like sales down 2.3% for the seven weeks ending January 7, Booker announced like-for-like sales for the 16 weeks to December 30 up 6.5%. Booker also said the number of both retailer and caterer customers were up and they were spending more.

Younus Sheikh, managing director Bestway Wholesale Group, said: “It was good in the end and similar to last year, coming in at just under the magic double digit figure of like-for-like growth for the Christmas period. The only area where we had some disappointment was on the drinks side and this suggests to us that the duty fraud problem is rearing its head again.”

Makro’s managing director Juergen Schwarze commented: “Despite the challenging economic climate, Christmas 2011 saw no signs of cut backs or conservative spending in both our stores and on our website. We saw a healthy increase in sales across all our ranges and our Christmas ranges were particularly successful.”

At smaller confectionary specialist Hancocks Cash amp; Carry, purchasing director Jonathan Summerley said Christmas sales were up 10% year on year, but this was mainly due to the growth in seasonal own label sales.

He added: “It continues to be a struggle to develop festive sales with Cadbury, Mars and Nestl√©, especially with the activity that took place in the discount sector and major multiples during the four weeks prior to Christmas. For example, tins of Quality Street and Celebrations were selling at retail prices that were below the Hancocks buying price!”

Foodservice specialists also reported strong sales. Jenny Wilson, director of marketing, 3663, said: “Christmas 2011 was a great success for 3663. So far our results are showing that we exceeded targets across all of our Christmas lines, both food and non-food.

“2010 saw very tough weather conditions over the Christmas period and assuming milder weather we had forecast an increase in sales for 2011. We are delighted that our expectations have all been surpassed.”

At DBC Foodservice, managing director Chris Horne said: “DBC Foodservice experienced a very strong Christmas trading period, with total December sales up 8.8% like-for-like compared with December 2010. Our figures show increases in sales across all areas, which include the independent catering sector, high street/profit sector, cost sector and our contract distribution division.

“We also witnessed a shift in behaviour in the run-up to Christmas 2011, which saw a contraction in the traditional out-of-home ‘party season’, with functions being held primarily in December rather than the usual November through December period.”

Creed Foodservice commercial director Karl Goodwin reported steady growth in October and November, both over 20% up on the same period in the previous year and December was over 30% ahead of the prior year. He said it had record consecutive weeks in terms of sales in the week commencing November 28 and December 5.

Steve Ross, managing director of Isle of Wight-based Medina Foodservice, said: “Our turnover for the Christmas period was up in excess of 20% year-on-year. Pleasingly, our business has shown positive growth in all areas and all quarters based on 2010 figures, but there is no escaping the fact that everyone is competing fiercely for business and increased turnover is coming at the expense of margins, which are being squeezed all the time.”

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