New C C operators keep their spirits up

Opening a cash and carry at the present time might seem a risky proposition to many, but Imran Awan had done his homework and reckoned there was enough demand for one in Rochdale. As managing director of Rochdale Drinks Distributors, which he set up with his family in 1994, he was in touch with retailers and decided there was a gap in the market because the nearest cash and carry was 12 miles away.

When the depot next door to Rochdale Drinks Distributors became vacant earlier this year he seized the opportunity and decided to open Rochdale Cash and Carry.

Recognising that operating a cash and carry with a full range of products was quite a different proposition to running a drinks distribution business he decided he needed to tap into some expertise. He recruited an experienced depot manager, Mussawer Iqbal, who has worked with several cash and carry companies, and he also asked the Confex buying group, to which RDD belonged, to contact suppliers who could help with advice on ranging and layout of the depot.

One of the first companies to respond to the request from Confex was Diageo, and when business development manager Andy Cunliffe went to the depot for the first time he says it was an empty shell. Imran showed him the room that had been allocated for spirits and tobacco and asked whether he could advise on a category approach to the layout of the spirits.

Andy hadn’t had the opportunity to lay out a cash and carry display from scratch before but was confident that with support from Diageo’s category development team at head office it could be done.

The first move was to work out how much shelf space was available and then using sales data for the top selling lines to allocate the appropriate amount of space to each product. Andy says the aim was to reflect as closely as possible how the retailers should be displaying their spirits. Andy also arranged signposting through Diageo so consistent signs above each piece of shelving would highlight where each group of products such as vodka and blended whiskies were. To help retailers maximise their returns from their spirits fixtures Andy also put up posters giving advice on merchandising and provided leaflets for them to take away.

Once the signposting was in place Andy mapped out the layout of the products and he personally put the stock on the shelves. Nabeela Awan, a director of the cash and carry, says customer response to the spirits display has been excellent. “Customers have been coming up to us and saying that is so easy to see all the products and that they want to have a layout like it.”

So far Nabeela has received about 35 inquiries from retailers who would like help laying out their fixtures. These have been passed on to the FWD’s Take Home Blueprint team, which can provide unbiased category advice on layout and merchandising of spirits as well as beer and wine.

Nabeela says that reps from other spirits companies have also complimented the depot on the layout. “They were a bit worried when they heard it was going to be laid out by one of their competitors, but now they can see it they say it is a very fair category approach.”

The most important test of the project is how much it sells and Mussawer Iqbal says sales have been well in excess of what was expected. “We budgeted for spirits to be 6% of our turnover, but it is currently double that and we are already planning to reduce the amount of wine to give more space to spirits,” he says.

He points out that the categories where suppliers provided hands-on help and advice are all trading well ahead of expectations. In addition to Diageo with spirits, he says Purina was also very helpful in developing the layout of the petfood fixture and sales there have been much higher than expected at 6.7% of turnover against the 4% that was forecast. He points out that suppliers like Diageo and Purina not only benefit from increased sales through the depot but also from inquiries from retailers seeking advice. Purina has worked directly with retailers as a result of inquiries at the depot.

With these benefits available for the suppliers, he says it is disappointing that some other big companies were not willing to be as supportive during the setting up of the depot, but he hopes that seeing the success that has been achieved they will now get involved.


=== rochdale cash carry ===

Rochdale Cash Carry opened in early August as an expansion of the business of Rochdale Drinks Distributors, a member of the Confex buying group. It provides a full range to retailers in the depot and they can also fax in orders and have them delivered through the business’s fleet of 15 vans and lorries.

Managing director Imran Awan says that one of the most important aspects of the business is the focus on the customer’s needs. He says he can offer retailers the sort of flexibility that is dying out in larger businesses. “It boils down to service,” he says. “If a customer comes in and wants to do a deal for a pallet then we can do that, but the bigger businesses can’t do that any more.”

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