How to minimise your time spent in cash and carries

A trip to the cash and carry has become something many retailers – even those getting deliveries from their symbol groups – have had to contemplate in recent months. With product shortages and delivery issues, heading out of the store to ensure your shelves are fully stocked has become a necessity for many retailers. But that trip is time spent away from the business – for retailers who live a long way away from a wholesaler or a cash and carry, it can be an entire day – time that could be spent better.

So, how can retailers ensure they are not wasting a moment of their precious time when they’re doing a cash and carry run?

The first thing to do is to make sure you are leaving prepared. If you know what you’re looking for and where you can find it, then far less time will be spent aimlessly trawling the shelves for things that your store might need.

An ordered shopping list can streamline the process and if you know where the products you want are located, you can cut your time spent looking for things as well.

Timing your visit right is also a great way to ensure you’re not wasting time in a long queue. Sam Nagi, from Sam’s Mini Market (Premier) in Halifax, does his shop between 10am and midday, long after the commuter traffic has died down and other retailers have done their preopening shop.

Another way to streamline the trip is to get your car-packing down to a fine art. Whether you’re bringing a car or a van, and whether you’re buying yourself or picking up a click & collect, making sure your loading process is quick and easy can have a major impact on timing.

“We’ve got how we load the vehicle down to a T,” says Mike Mitchelson, of Mitchelson News in Brampton, Cumbria, who does the trip in a car with the seats folded down. “I’ve got a two-hour window on Friday when I can go in and it’s all factored into my timetable.”

Plan ahead

Mike Mitchelson of Mitchelson News in Brampton, Cumbria

Mike Mitchelson, of Mitchelson News in Brampton, Cumbria, has been increasing the amount of produce he gets delivered to the store, cutting his trips to the cash and carry down to once a week. By checking emails, online leaflets and trade press, such as betterRetailing, he creates a list of what he wants and what the cash and carry has in stock.

“The whole thing is planned. We know what we want before we go because we don’t want to spend too much time away from the business,” he says. “We’re 20 minutes away from the cash and carry, so you can’t just pop down every other day.”

Mitchelson has further streamlined his trip by adopting the click & collect approach, which means his entire shop is simply waiting for him outside when he arrives. “Talk to staff at the depot,” he adds. “If they get to know you, they can accommodate you. It’s important to have that relationship.”

Time is right

Sarj Patel of Pasture Lane Stores in Sutton Bonington, Nottinghamshire

Sarj Patel, of Pasture Lane Stores in Sutton Bonington, Nottinghamshire, times his cash and carry visits to avoid busy periods. “I try to get there early in the morning if possible, because it’s just chaos sometimes, although January has been nice and quiet.”

Now that he has started getting deliveries from Go Local, he has started to cut down his cash and carry visits, but it means his visits are more focused on what isn’t in the deliveries. He makes sure to itemise his shopping lists according to their place in the depot and their weight to make sure he is moving through the cash and carry effectively.

“I do shop in order of sequencing – snacks, cereals, soft drinks, pet food, groceries, and then beers, wine and spirits. I have a printed list that I go through and I know where the products are so it doesn’t waste time, but I leave beers and wines until the end because they’re heavy.”

Availability beats price

Convenience retailers are always chasing margins, but when it comes to the choice between searching for the best price and actually getting products on the shelves, there is no contest as far as Sam Nagi, from Sam’s Mini Market in Halifax (Premier), is concerned.

“Something is better than nothing,” he says. “It’s great to get a good margin at this point in time especially. But if it’s available and I have to pay 50p more for it, then I don’t mind because it means I have the stock. I don’t want to be hanging around with empty shelves waiting for the price to drop or to spend time searching for other stock that might be a pound or so cheaper. I’ve not got the time for that and I’m willing to make that sacrifice. It might not be the same margin, but it also means I’m not turning customers away at the door because I don’t have the products that they want.”

Have a plan, but also wander

Shisan Patel from Jash in Birmingham

Shisan Patel, from Jash in Birmingham, runs a Nisa store, but still visits the cash and carry the day after his Nisa delivery to pick up things he couldn’t get. He looks through emails and leaflets on Sunday, making notes of what’s available, what’s new and what’s on at a good price to determine which cash and carry he’s going to visit and what he’s going to hunt out. Once there, he hasn’t got a fixed route, though, as there is always the possibility something special will catch his eye.

“We do a click & collect if we have one big order – like 20 cases of Carling – but for more varied shops, they might not have brought out the exact right products and we’ll want to check the store and see if there are any new products in there,” he says.

“It’s similar to when customers come into our store. You want to show them new lines, and in the cash and carry, we want to find new lines.”

Top tips

    Find out when the busiest times and biggest queues are at your wholesalers, and then plan your trip at any other time

    Know what you’re going in to get before you go, and plan your route so you don’t get distracted

    It may not work for every retailer or every shopping trip, but if you can arrange to have your shop ready and waiting when you arrive, it could save you time

    Packing a van or a car is like a game of 3D Tetris. Know your vehicle’s dimensions and have a packing plan ready

    The time spent looking for the perfect price could actually cost you more in time spent away from the business or empty shelves in your store

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