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Suppliers must recognise the importance of Wholesale

Written by Dr Jason Wouhra O.B.E

Published by The Grocer - 12th February 2024

It has been said before but it definitely bears repeating: wholesale is a thriving, creative and innovative channel that is being overlooked time and time again. 

But I have to ask why. In the UK, there are almost 600 wholesalers with a combined food and drink annual turnover in excess of £30bn. FWD research shows the public spends £48bn in our customers’ businesses, which is more than they do in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose combined.

Each year, we buy products in excess of £25bn from our supplier partners. Add alcohol and tobacco sales to the mix and it sits at a heady £35bn. If wholesale were a supermarket, with the exception of Tesco, we’d be the biggest in the UK.

And yet, despite these impressive figures, significant buying power and unrivalled appetite for success, it seems many major suppliers continue to throw us scraps instead of inviting us to the table.

With these words, I am imploring you to give us the time, consideration and respect our channel deserves. This industry is nothing without relationships and this is true right across the supply chain.

So why are wholesalers often left to liaise with an inexperienced executive without the knowledge or insight that can drive both businesses forward? Rather than let wholesale be the entry point or a training camp for new employees, retain that invaluable industry expertise and encourage them to develop their career as true champions for our channel – that way we will all win.

Where there are supply issues, don’t keep us in the dark. If we know ahead of time, we can plan more effectively to ensure we don’t disappoint customers and lose their trust. We know price increases are inevitable, but keep them fair and communicate them clearly. Don’t expect our customers or us to compromise on already-tight margins.

Remember, the multiples have a strong focus on own label, continually improving quality and price in order to rival the most successful of brands. In wholesale, we pride ourselves as being the custodians of your brands. For us, your brands are our business.

Wholesale provides you with huge visibility. We have more than 72,000 retail outlets and 330,000 foodservice operations – each one with the power to promote your products. Consumers want, and in some cases need, to shop locally, so give them access to your brands.

While wholesale may be more labour intensive to serve, it offers untapped potential and if you invest in our channel and support us with packs, promotions and PMPs, you will reap the rewards.

Wholesale is vibrant and exciting. It is a channel bursting with innovation and creativity. It thrives on passion, commitment and a deep-rooted dedication to excellent service, whether this is for its customers, its people or the communities it serves. The channel offers an incredible opportunity for brands looking to drive sales, so surely it’s time to invite us to the table. We’re hungry.

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