Passing on the knowledge

Sugro’s members are increasing their share of their local markets as the group becomes more competitive, Sugro UK managing director Philip Jenkins told the group’s annual conference.

In his introduction to the conference he said Sugro performed very well during 2008, despite the difficult climate, and that its Sweet Break promotional programme was growing strongly. He said: “Sweet Break is gathering steam and after a comprehensive review with retailers we’ve seen a strengthening of commitment from retailers and an upgrading of participation. Five per cent of all independent retailers follow our promotions, taking the deals directly through to the consumer.”

Jenkins said that some of the group’s volumes with promotions were greater than the multiples, and he added: “We are communicating with 21,000 retailers – that’s 41% of independent retailers in the UK.”

During the conference a series of video vox pops delivered views from the group’s wholesalers, and a number of them pointed out ways in which suppliers could improve their service to wholesalers.

Martin Weekes of Weekes Bros (Merthyr) said: “A lot of sales reps are under cooked on knowledge. It takes six to nine months to understand my business and in that time many of them passed on.”

Philip Jenkins said that head office had encountered the same problem. In response the trading team, working with some of the best individuals from the suppliers’ side, had compiled a guide for new account managers.

He said: “Martin’s issue is on a local basis but we did this primarily because we have the same problem on a national basis. Sometimes it feels like a retirement camp or new kids on the block.

“There is a constantly changing flow of people at national account level and at local level. The manual is an induction programme so that whenever the account manager changes it tells them everything about the wholesalers, about central office, our initiatives and how to do business with us.”

Bill Stone from Telford-based Westone complained that increasingly suppliers were reluctant to do business on credit terms. He said that suppliers’ finance departments were refusing credit on a channel basis, rather than looking at an individual company’s credit worthiness.

Philip Jenkins told the conference it did not make sense to put a squeeze on credit at a time when the sector had seen substantial volume growth. It meant that if a wholesaler was growing volume with a supplier and approaching credit limits, the credit squeeze would prevent the wholesaler, and the supplier, from growing their business further.

He said this problem was being compounded by poor communications from suppliers. There had been cases where wholesalers had placed an order which had exceeded their credit limit, and finance departments had vetoed the order, but the first the wholesaler knew about this was when their order did not arrive.

He said: “Either someone should be picking up the phone to advise the national account manager or phoning the wholesaler and saying we can’t deliver that order because …”

l See page 14 for details of Sugro’s 25th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Awards

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