With the theme of The Spirit of Scotland the Scottish Wholesale Associations annual conference was never going to be anything less than patriotic.
Iain Hill, SWA President, commented: “As you would expect at a conference titled Spirit of Scotland you will be hearing much about the advantages and challenges specific to the Scottish market. I believe that Scotland still offers great opportunity for growth, particularly if all our efforts are channelled in the right direction.”
Hill posed the question ‘was the conference justified in this time of economic downturn’. He answered by first addressing the suppliers in the audience, saying: “Just think, how long it would take you to travel round Scotland, calling at these wholesalers at their own premises and how much it would cost. I would encourage you, to use this weekend to speak to your customers.
“Equally wholesalers, I would remind you that we have some of the top people here from the suppliers you deal with. This is a great chance to reinforce with them, the importance of the wholesale route to market in Scotland and explore with them, ways of addressing some current concerns.”
He added that wholesalers can also learn from each other by visiting other members’ depots and seeing how the other operates.
He reported that the SWA itself has opportunity for growth with its membership increasing over the last year, with the addition of Campbell Brothers, JB Foods and Forteiths Foodservice.
John Forteith, senior partner of Forteiths Foodservice, was at the conference and he explained that working out of a single distribution depot in Oban on the west coast of Scotland comes with its own set of issues.
These include poor road infrastructure, and significant ferry costs. “There are no ferry subsidies and we cover 16 ferry routes in total. These range from 10-minute to three-hour sailings each way. We have to absorb high haulage costs from the central belt to Oban which also increases lead time for goods into us due to poor logistics infrastructure into the area.
“Our main competitors in the area are significantly larger than us. However, we are located in the area we serve and therefore we understand the true costs involved and are flexible, responsive and accommodating to our customers who experience the same trading challenges we experience.”
Forteith commented on the “extreme” trading pattern with an eight-fold increase in sales from January to August with over 50% of annual turnover in the months of July, August and September.
“Due to our ‘need to be smarter’ we focus on our three core competences of service, quality and a relevant range. So selling product concepts and brands and not trading on price is fundamental to our success and adds value not only to our business but also our customers’ businesses, be they retailers or caterers, and the brands who work with us.”
Grant Scrimgeour, wholesale director of CJ Lang amp; Son, introduced the Reward Excellence scheme that was started last August. “Supplier contact at depot level is crucial; however it is becoming more and more apparent that local supplier contact is diminishing. From a staff perspective there was no focus on supplier brands and they were unaware of NPD, promotions and specific product information. Lack of knowledge creates lack of interest and enthusiasm which can indirectly affect sales.
“Through Rewarding Excellence, depots are now marked on product knowledge, brand awareness, merchandising, housekeeping and promotional display. They are judged by participating suppliers and also our trading team and awarded points which are turned into rewards on a quarterly basis. Securing supplier time in our depots has provided a renewed focus in brand visibility and in motivating our depot staff we are securing the most valuable asset we can ever have.”