How will the era of consolidation affect the UK’s smaller, independent wholesalers? According to Dee Bee Wholesale’s managing director Nick Ramsden, their size and expertise give them an opportunity to shine

Company CV

Company Dee Bee Wholesale

Managing director Nick Ramsden

Profile The wholesaler, which will be 60 years old in 2021, currently serves retailers from
two depots in Grimsby and Hull, and develops 90 Today’s Local symbol group stores.  

Latest news Dee Bee Wholesale is aiming to boost Today’s Extra member store numbers to 100 this year.

RN: In a tough market of consolidations and high street closures, how can independent retailers survive?

NR: When you look at the majority of retailers who work with us across the country, the top customers are those with a symbol store. They’re the only ones who seem to be growing. You’re going to struggle if you’re not part of a symbol group – it helps build brand awareness and a sense high standards are being consistently maintained. Since the multiples entered convenience, there’s been a greater need to offer a recognised brand. 

RN: The collapse of Palmer & Harvey (P&H) last year had a major effect on the industry. Is there still a future for traditional cash and carries? 

NR: P&H’s collapse enabled us to pick up many of their old customers and grow our business. Although cash and carry is still very important for us, delivered wholesale is where we see the company – and the industry – going. Delivered makes up 80% of our overall business and the service is up 22% compared to last year. We’re delivering 60,000 cases a week now to our customers. 

RN: How are you developing the delivered wholesale business and differentiating from rival wholesalers who are offering similar services?

NR: We’ve invested a lot in the service over the past year and our availability is at 98%. We’re also pretty untapped in terms of competition for delivered wholesale in Grimsby and Hull, alongside parts of the UK other wholesalers are unable to reach. 

We do a lot of business in Skegness and Mablethorpe. Nobody really wants to deliver in those areas because they’re difficult for deliveries logistically. Our delivery network also includes Scarborough, York, Leeds, Liverpool and Northampton. 

We’re also a family business. We might not be the biggest and we’re never going to be at the
same scale as Nisa or Spar, but we react to decisions quickly. The disadvantage Tesco-Booker has
is its size – it can’t make decisions as quickly as we can. 

RN: Does Dee Bee Wholesale have any interest in acquiring any of the Blakemore depots?

NR: The focus now is on delivered and there’s no desire to open another depot. Blakemore isn’t an interest because we looked at their numbers over the past year and what we saw didn’t look great. Our turnover last year was £65m and there’s more growth to be had this year. 

There is still plenty of potential to grow in the areas we currently serve and delivering further afield is still an option. For example, the North East is a region we might consider in the next two years.

RN: Do you see any more consolidation happening?

NR: What will be interesting is what Morrisons will be doing, especially with their deal with McColl’s. Will they decide to enter convenience and make the market even more crowded? Tesco-Booker, alongside Co-op and Nisa, will be spending the next few years sorting themselves out, and Bestway seems to be quite hungry when you consider the recent acquisition of Conviviality Retail. 

I don’t know if there’s even much more to consolidate now and it’s a case of what the existing companies will do. Convenience seems to be the only growth area.

Read more: Dee Bee plans to expand Today’s using delivery