store advice shopping well

The trip to the cash and carry is a critical part of the week for most independent retailers. Their role became even more important during the pandemic, when even symbol group retailers relied heavily on trips to the cash and carry to get the necessary lines for their customers.

“If it wasn’t for the cash and carries last year, I’d have been screwed,” says Richard Kent, from Evington Village Store in Leicestershire. “We couldn’t get everything we wanted delivered by our symbol because of the pandemic. It took several hours out of my day going to several cash and carrys, but it was necessary and without them I wouldn’t have made it.”

Those hours out of the day, however, can be costly for small businesses. Retailers therefore need to hone their skills to ensure that they are making the most efficient trips to the cash and carry as possible, whether it’s having a list and sticking to it or heading out when the offers you want are on. Sticking to a list is not just important from a time-keeping perspective. Just as one can have eyes too big for one’s stomach, it’s possible to have shops too big for your car.

“Don’t get suckered into buying everything and be careful on the space in your car,” advises Vicky Onions, from Vicky’s Convenience Store in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. “I’ve got a seven-seater and if you’ve only got a car then be careful on your space and weight.”

However, it is important to come back from a trip to the cash and carry with plenty of stock. Visiting the cash and carry every day to top up supplies is challenging for a business, with retailers trying to keep visits down to twice a week. “You need to be bringing back around two weeks’ worth of stock at least,” says Narrinder Blaggan, from Netherton Grocer in Birmingham.

Kent also recommends looking at local suppliers – butchers, bakers and grocers – which has helped him to connect with his community. “We’ve shown customers what we’re about and they love the store.”

Make a list before you go

The pandemic plus an hour and a half round trip has put paid to Christine Hope’s cash and carry visits, but the owner of Hopes of Longtown in Hereford still recommends them to retailers who can easily go.

“Some people go every night after closing their shops because they’re close, and that’s exactly what I’d do if I could,” she says. “Based on my online searches, my perception of what that cash and carry stocks has decreased drastically – it appears as though there isn’t as much choice.”

Hope used to visit twice a week, and always made a list of exactly what she was after beforehand. However, she recommends switching things up every three or four visits. “Every so often I would walk the entire store and look out for new or exciting products, or make use of the offers.” It’s a balanced approach to freshening your store’s offerings without threatening your margins.”

Look for support and guidance

There are always promotions and special offers to be found at cash and carries, but it can take retailers time to go through each outlet and find the offers that are most pertinent to their store.

Richard Kent, from Evington Village Store in Leicestershire , gets most of his products delivered by his symbol group Nisa, so he’s not going to the cash and carry every other day. But he still spends time looking for bargains at the cash and carry, and tends to use them once or twice a week.

“It’s time consuming – it’s a four-hour job – but you can get some bargains,” he says. “It pays to shop around if you’ve got the time. If one of them has a promotion then we’ll wait until we’re running out of things and then stock up on loads of it. Things like cigarettes are a good idea because they have a long shelf life and you can’t always get a deal with your symbol group.”

Get your sequencing right

Vicky Onions, from Vicky’s Store in Bromgrove, Worcestershire, has a few cash and carries in her area and would love to be able to visit all of them, but time is short, so she tends to just visit the Bestway in Oldbury. To save time, she doesn’t just have a shopping list planned; she has a route as well.

“I try to write my list out in the way that I would shop, in aisle sequence,” she says. “That way, I can focus on what I need.”

However, she spends more time in the cash and carry on Wednesdays and Thursdays when they have special offers. As she’s part of a buying group, she is already entitled to offers at the till, but she still looks out for monthly offers, weekly offers and ‘bonanza days’ like Bank Holiday specials.

“Because I’ve been going there for so long I’ve gotten to know what their antics are and each month they change their offers so you know on the first of the month what to look out for,” she says.

Cherry pick products from stores

Narrinder Blaggan, from Netherton Grocer in Liverpool, uses three cash and carries in his area – Parfetts, Costco and Bestway – and has worked out which stores will give him the best deals for certain products. He will spend two hours going through the brochures, picking out what’s on offer or has high margins, before setting out to collect what he needs.

“They send us a brochure for the month and say ‘this is our offer this month’. If Kelloggs is on offer this month, we’ll buy two or three cases. By the time we’ve run out of Kelloggs, then it often has come back on offer. You work this out from experience.”

To save time, he will take a member of his team with him, sending them to get food, while he takes care of alcohol.

“Sometimes, we call ahead and then it’s all been prepared ready for us beforehand and we can just put it on the trolley and take it back. That’s the best way at the moment.”

This piece appeared in the 26 March 2021 issue of Retail News. To get the latest issue, subscribe here