Investment in tech plus increased productivity equals a good year for Filshill

Ongoing investment in technology, increased productivity and improving operating cost efficiencies helped Glasgow-based wholesaler JW Filshill achieve a turnover of £158m in the year to January 31, 2014 in what the company called a “highly competitive and challenging retail marketplace”.

Today’s member, and Key Store brand owner, Filshill is one of Scotland’s oldest independent food and drink wholesalers, said it had “ramped up” its investment in technology, including its website, EPoS systems and other digital innovations, to “add value” to its customer base across Scotland and the North of England.

Operating costs were reduced by £400,000 mainly due to improved efficiencies, and while turnover for the year slipped by 4.2% compared to the previous year, it was “in line with the rest of the UK retail sector”. Gross profit of £10.2m remained static and pre-tax profit was £0.8m.

Simon Hannah, managing director, described the results as “satisfactory” in a convenience retail sector “that continues to come under pressure from major supermarket brands and discounters.”

“The independent retail trade remains highly competitive and challenging, and we seek to manage the principal risk of losing customers by offering strong promotions and wide-ranging advice and support for retailers,” he said. “This includes store layouts and planograms, consumer leaflets, digital social media solutions and free on-loan EPoS till installations as well as credit facilities. We have also continued to work closely with our customers to provide ongoing service support and expert advice on all aspects of retail development.”

Hannah, who confirmed that JW Filshill is in the process of making changes to its stocking strategy to further reduce operating costs, added: “We continue to place emphasis on staff performance and measured incentives schemes and believe that the monitoring of non-financial KPIs such as vehicle fuel performance, sales service levels/range achievements, unanswered telesales calls and returned orders is an effective part of our business performance review.”

As convenience store operators become smarter at giving people more reasons to shop locally, the sector is proving that it can stand up to competition from the multiples, he suggested. “Our sector’s trump card is the high level of customer service that the big supermarkets struggle provide,” said Hannah.

“Small stores are very much at the heart of their communities and by adding more value, adhering to high standards in-store and pushing boundaries when it comes to customer service they have a very clear point of difference.”

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