Wholesalers: is yours the right fit?

Relationship with supplier can offer a myriad of benefits to business


THERE’S no shortage of flair and innovation when it comes to the food and drink in Scotland’s bars, pubs and restaurants.

But with plenty of challenges – from the uncertainty surrounding Brexit to the announcement of a Scotland-wide deposit return scheme – a good working relationship with the right wholesaler has never been more important.

Ian Cumming, commercial director at Inverarity Morton, said that a supplier is “basically the conduit between brand owners and the on-trade”.

“The relationship with the wholesaler goes way beyond price,” he said.

“Our customers want to know that we can deliver value for money, so that applies to the depth and breadth of the product range, the customer service they experience from the point of ordering to delivery and the support they receive from their account manager in terms of tailoring a product list to suit their needs and providing that ongoing care.

The relationship between an operator and wholesaler goes way beyond price.

“They also want to know that we can add value and that means having account managers who are abreast of the latest trends and can help customers grow their business.”

Cumming added that a sign of a good wholesaler is one which is “delighted to have lots of contact with their customers – and to talk about ways to help their customers make more money through innovation”.

Jessica Smith of wholesaler Continental Wine & Food (CWF) echoed this view, stating that the right wholesaler “can become a valuable partner to customers by offering insights on their competitors and make suggestions on popular products”.

In terms of drinks trends, Smith reckons that operators should ensure their low and no-alcohol range is up to scratch.

She said: “What was once a novelty trend confined to Dry January and [Sober October] has grown into a long-lasting lifestyle choice – and people are actively searching for low-alcohol alternatives more than ever.”

Cumming of Inverarity Morton, meanwhile, told SLTN that ‘pink gin’ is an important consideration, as well as flavoured gins and cider.

“Flavoured gins are flourishing, as are fruit ciders – and sales of both will only go up in the summer as demand for drinks over ice increases,” he explained.

When it comes to your drinks range, your stock holding is the biggest single tangible asset.

And sustainability is another important trend to consider, said Cumming, who added that “there is a lot of interest out there from operators looking to adopt more sustainable practices”.

Beyond trends, operators would do well to ensure their operation is as well organised as possible.

“When it comes to your drinks range, your stock holding is the biggest single tangible asset you will have,” said Cumming.

“But there’s a very fine line between having the right amount and too much; there’s a lot of cash tied up in [drinks] – and rate of sale is absolutely key to having a healthy bottom line.

“You want to of course make sure you have sufficient stock to benefit your business proposition, to satisfy your clientele, but you also want to make sure none of it is left sitting on the shelf.”