Dawood Pervez took over as Bestway’s managing director late last year at the tail end of one of the most disruptive years on record for wholesalers. Collapses, mergers, takeovers and the incursion of major multiples may have changed the supply chain landscape, but Pervez – formerly Bestway’s trading director – remains unfazed. In an exclusive interview with betterRetailing, the new MD outlines his aims for the firm

Bestway is the only independent national wholesaler who has the interest of independent retailers at its heart,” he says, discussing the recent changes to the sector. “Other national wholesalers only have the interests of their core businesses now. What we do is entirely for the benefit of independent retail.”

Part of the company’s recent growth has been driven by the rescue of independent retailers who were left without a wholesale partner. Bestway acquired stewardship of 700 Bargain Booze, Select Convenience, Wine Rack and Central Convenience stores after the collapse of wholesaler Conviviality Retail last year. 

Bargain Booze franchisees were also saved from bankruptcy after Bestway signed a deal with banks to help clear up to £34m of outstanding debt as a result of Conviviality Retail’s demise. Meanwhile, the purchase of depots in Cardiff and Walsall from Blakemore Wholesale provided assurance to retailers affected by Blakemore’s withdrawal from independent wholesaling.

Now, 10 months on from this uncertain period, Pervez’s strategy at Bestway’s helm is to use the company’s combined knowledge and experience to develop retailers under the Bargain Booze and Best-one fascias.

“We’ve calmed the nerves and steadied the ship,” he says. “There’s now the opportunity to develop Bargain Booze’s impulse and grocery offering by using the best of the Best-one symbol group. Similarly, Bargain Booze partners have enormous strength in alcohol and it’s an opportunity for Best-one retailers to learn from them.”

This vision will involve expanding the range of craft alcohol products within Bargain Booze stores and adding areas for customers to socialise. Likewise, Bargain Booze’s vaping experts will be deployed within depots and stores to help Best-one retailers develop the e-cigarette category. Backlit displays used by Bargain Booze retailers will also be replicated within Best-one stores to help the alcohol category stand out more to customers.

Pervez says: “There’s a blurring of lines between missions now and we want to give customers a reason to stay in stores. There is no ‘one size fits all’ and we need to bring the idea of the convenience store forward. Bargain Booze retailers will often nail the booze bit, but not get the convenience part right. We want to add more impulse and grocery. We don’t want customers buying a bottle of wine and leaving immediately.”

The new direction follows a number of senior management changes to help it focus on developing its retail division. Former MRH managing director Andrew Cresswell has joined as chief retail officer to oversee the development of Bargain Booze, Select Convenience, Central Convenience and Wine Rack brands. Elsewhere, Tony Holmes was promoted from sales director to retail director to develop the Best-one symbol group.

“We want to divide the responsibility between brands to allow for more focus,” Pervez says. “Soon, Best-one retailers might be able to activate a mini franchise similar to what Bargain Booze stores have with the Select Convenience brand.”

Pervez has also started laying down the foundations for improvements in areas that aren’t seen directly by customers. Bestway’s chilled distribution centre in Coventry is to double to 47,500sq ft by the end of April to process higher volumes of chilled products to retailers across the group.

Elsewhere, the majority of Bargain Booze retailers are now choosing to move away from an existing chilled agreement the company has with Nisa to receive their supply solely from Bestway. “There are a few factors why retailers are choosing to receive their chilled supply solely through us now,” says Pervez. “It goes towards their rebate as part of their agreement with us and it means they only have to deal with one supplier. It makes life easier for our retailers.”

An own-brand food-to-go solution is also in development for the company’s retailers. Due to launch in the summer, Bestway will offer catering-style fixtures for cakes, sandwiches and coffees alongside training to ensure participating retailers meet national standards. “There’ll be plenty of tie-ups with suppliers,” says Pervez. “We have built and designed the food-to-go solution and, for example, retailers will be able to get different bean-to-cup machines.

“We’re looking at how we can set up the correct pricing for the best margins, while also supporting retailers with areas such as health and safety. It will be available to selected retailers initially, but the ambition is to open it up to everyone we work with.”

Technology is another area the wholesaler is assisting its retailers with, alongside the latest trends and logistical support. Bestway launched a new app six months ago, which is designed to simplify the ordering process for its retailers. “Retailers who use the app are able to start an order from their mobile phone, and then continue it from a tablet or a computer,” says Pervez. “It really simplifies the ordering process for them and takes a lot of unnecessary hassle out of their day.”

“It’s vital we provide all these services to retailers. We are the national retail expert, without a shadow of a doubt.”

Read more: Martin Race to leave role as Bestway MD and be replaced by Dawood Pervez