One year after its foundation, Unitas Wholesale is living up to the promises made to independent retailers, according to managing director Darren Goldney.

The group was officially formed last November as a result of a merger between rivals Today’s Group and Landmark Wholesale.

Speaking to betterRetailing at the time, Unitas made a number of pledges on how its increased scale would benefit its 4,000 independent retail and 175 wholesale members.

To mark the first anniversary, betterRetailing challenged the wholesaler on whether it had lived up to its promises.

Read more: Unitas forms ‘council’ for retailer feedback

One point pledged was to maintain more than 98% availability by holding suppliers to account.

Unitas Wholesale managing director Goldney told betterRetailing: “We have a council consisting of our wholesale members that meets every quarter.

“It’s one thing saying what availability levels are, but we have proof.

“We’ve got a system by which we look at the orders of our members and compare it to stock they receive,” said Goldney.

“We can then rank suppliers in a table and use it as a way to influence the supply chain and ensure stock doesn’t go to multiple retailers.

“It’s often the accusation that multiples have more stock and we can now talk about this in a factual sense.

“Our availability levels are at 98%.”

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As part of the group’s promise to help improve retailer sales and standards across its estate, Unitas has made Today’s Group’s Plan for Profit scheme available to all unaffiliated members and symbol group retailers.

“We have 1,000 symbol group stores and 3,000 non-fascia members,” said Goldney.

“They’ve all adopted the scheme, which allows them to access the same category advice and promotions. Suppliers have one place to go.”

At its formation, Uni-tas also pledged to challenge the rise of own-label products.

Asked if this has been achieved, the managing director told betterRetailing: “The products we have are also 99.4% branded because we think independent retail has to champion brands to compete.

Read more: Unitas Wholesale vows to be “the champion of independents”

“That said, we have 170 Lifestyle Express own-label products available to any Unitas Wholesale member. Own label can still co-exist where our retailer has an Aldi or Lidl competing near them.

“We’ve seen modest growth in own label, but there are no plans to expand this.”

Goldney added costs for retailers had also been reduced as a result of the group’s scale. “We’ve got 39 cost-reducing services available now,” he said.

“The scale of Unitas allows us to negotiate with third-party suppliers to reduce costs for retailers.

“We’re passing these on. For example, utilities and credit card deals.

“Our wholesale members can also invoice through one central system, which reduces cost, and this can be passed onto the retailers.”

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