With closures and mergers, it’s not been an easy time for wholesale recently. Could it be that small is beautiful these days? Cotswold Fayre chief executive Paul Hargreaves certainly thinks so

RN A lot has gone on in wholesale recently. What do you think the effect of this will be on retailers in 2018?

PH It will definitely influence inde-pendents but, personally, I think too many convenience stores duplicate the range supermarkets offer. I understand retailers need to offer a similar core range to remain competitive, but they also need a point of difference, stocking products unavailable in the multiples. They also need to offer more in-store theatre and tastings to stand out. Supermarkets used to do this, but it’s not common anymore and there’s a gap for independent retailers to take advantage of.

RN How does working with Cotswold Fayre help retailers to do this? 

PH We work with an average 400 suppliers a year. We normally end our relationship with a supplier if they get picked up by a major supermarket and therefore no longer offer a point of difference to independents. It’s ruthless, but we have to do it. We’re planning to add 50 new suppliers to our business by the end of this year. There’ll be 40 with a focus on ambient and 10 which are predominantly chilled.

RN Are there any major convenience trends you see for the year?

PH Chilled is going to get even bigger this year. Although ambient products are still a major area for us, our chilled business has gone from 2% to 8% in the last year and we expect this to grow to nearly 20% by the end of this year. This is because of the new chilled suppliers we’re adding, so retailers will have more products to sell. The feedback we’ve received from the stores we supply also suggests chilled is on the rise. 

RN What was the main lesson you learned as a business from the collapse of P&H?

PH It didn’t move with the times and its focus on developing trends such as fresh or chilled wasn’t quite as big as it should have been. Cigarettes were obviously huge because it was the largest part of its business, but it focused too much on this declining category. Sales were always going to decrease with legislation and a growing focus on healthier lifestyles. We don’t supply cigarettes, but you look at other wholesalers and you see them pushing away from cigarettes into newer areas to try and offset the decline. P&H didn’t do that. 

RN How can smaller wholesalers operate successfully in such a competitive era?

PH The solution for smaller whole-salers to minimise any disruption is to work with other likeminded wholesalers. Business is already competitive. There might be two wholesalers who offer totally different services, but they can perhaps become more successful by combining together.

RN Is that part of your plans for the rest of the year?

PH I can’t really say much yet, but we’re currently in discussions with another company which will enable us to extend our delivery range and allow us to offer our customers more products. We’ve already got warehouses as far north as Nottingham and as far south as Bristol, but we’re looking at a partner company who will be able to help us extend this reach.

 

** Company CV ** 

Company Cotswold Fayre

Chief executive Paul Hargreaves

Profile Reading-based wholesaler which supplies 1,750 independent retailers with chilled and ambient products from speciality suppliers. Best-selling products include Shaken Udder milk drinks.

Latest news The company is extending its distribution network to retailers this year, with aims to double its chilled business as well.