Grab and go

Like all stores, the concept of the traditional cash & carry has evolved in recent years to be a more customer-friendly experience. Gone are the days of dusty warehouses, with shelves stacked the height of three men and forklifts driving alongside customers. Bright, clean, airy and spacious are the better descriptors now, as we discovered when we caught up with some of the top names in the business in Ireland, explaining their own outlooks, and plans for the future. Doug Whelan reports

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Brand Central

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19 October 2017 | 0

John Moane, managing director, Wholesale BWG foods

John Moane, managing director, Wholesale BWG foods

 

 

Fact File:

Name: Value Centre

Number of branches nationwide: 20

Major locations: Dublin, Cork, Galway

Number of customers: 20,000+

Number of lines in product listing: 10,000+

Tagline: ‘Your Local Wholesaler’

Ordering options: Online, in-branch, telesales, dedicated sales developers

Typical opening hours: 9am-5.30pm

Size-range of outlets: 12,000 – 60,000 sq ft.

Operating in Ireland for more than 40 years, Value Centre boasts 20 branches nationwide, offering both walk-in and delivery services. In recent years, there has been significant investment by Value Centre’s parent company BWG Foods, to upgrade the branch network in order to improve efficiency and deliver a more positive customer experience.

Value Centre supplies more than 20,000 customers nationwide in a variety of organisations, and is the main supplier to XL and Xpress Stop Stores nationwide, along with a wide range of businesses including retailers, hotels, clubs and restaurants, institutions, pubs and many more.

Each Value Centre has a product listing of over 15,000 lines and carries a full range of retail and catering own brand products under the ‘Family Value’ and ‘Chefs Kitchen’ labels as well as an exclusive range of retail and on-trade wines.

Value Centre also prides itself on superior customer service, striving to exceed the expectations of its customers, while modern technology also helps to achieve market-leading levels of service in-store and online.

Q&A with John Moane, managing director of wholesale at BWG Foods…

Q: How extensive is Value Centre’s product listing and own-brand offering?

Our ranges include grocery, confectionery, beverages, chilled, frozen, household, health and beauty, non-food, tobacco and alcohol. We’re keeping up to date with recent trends, especially in the growth of premium spirits like gin and whiskey. We are continually expanding our range to offer customers more choice than ever before. We also strive to be first to market with new products, giving customers the opportunity to gain an advantage over their competitors.

Our own brand offering consists of a retail range – Family Value – and a catering range – Chefs Kitchen. Both ranges are benchmarked and tested against the market leader or branded equivalent, and offer attractive savings without compromising on the quality of the product. We also stock exclusive agency and on-trade wines.

Low aisle ends and digital displays enhance the customer experience

Low aisle ends and digital displays enhance the customer experience

Q: How do you ensure you offer value to customers through both pricing and promotions?

Being part of the BWG Group means we’re able to leverage our buying power and we have recently increased the amount of products on offer. Value Centre runs 17 three-weekly promotions throughout the year with further tactical activity which is generally centred on seasonal opportunities. Christmas is our busiest time of the year so we focus on an extended range to cater for this occasion. We offer bespoke hampers that can be tailored to our customers’ needs and budget and can include anything from novelty items to premium whiskey! Each branch also have their own local deals so there is an incredible amount of offers to choose from all year round!

Q: How do you offer flexibility and convenience to your shoppers?

With a national network of 20 branches, we are Ireland’s largest cash and carry brand, meaning we’re always close to our customer base. Customers can choose to walk into any one of these branches to shop, get a delivery direct to their business or arrange to have their order ready for collection.

We’re also about to trial a new service for customers allowing them to order in out-of-office hours for same-day delivery. This is a huge advantage to customers who simply might have forgotten to order an essential item or for example a restaurant that might have an unexpected last minute booking and need to order in for it. It’s something we see rolling out in the future.

We continue to offer online shopping and are launching our new and improved online store; Shoplink. Customers can access Shoplink 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, enabling them to do business with us more efficiently and giving them back more of their time for other aspects of their business.

Q: How does your foodservice offering stand out from competitors? How have you further developed this offering in past 12 months to meet consumer trends?

Our continuous investment programme has resulted in significant improvements to our chilled and frozen facilities and as we continue to expand the range we offer. Our recently launched Chef’s Book, showcases this range along with calories for all food products, exclusive on-trade wines and special dietary products such as gluten free.

Staff at the grand opening of Value Centre’s latest state-of-the-art wholesale store, along with BWG’s MD of wholesale, John Moane

Staff at the grand opening of Value Centre’s latest state-of-the-art wholesale store, along with BWG’s MD of wholesale, John Moane

Q: How extensively do you market your cash and carry brand (including through social media)?

In 2018 Value Centre will celebrate its 50th anniversary, so we’ve some exciting plans for the year ahead! We take pride in being local and make this approach part of how we do business. All our radio campaigns are played out on local stations, we support local sponsorships, clubs, customer events and local charity initiatives. We keep customers informed through our websites, Twitter (@BWGFoodservice) and use text messaging.

Q: How do your customer service teams strive to deliver the best possible experience for customers?

We pride ourselves on customer service being locally based, friendly and in having expert management and staff who can offer their knowledge and experience. We have a large ‘on the ground’ sales force and a dedicated telesales team, all of whom are committed to exceeding customer needs. We monitor standards on a weekly basis, tracking very closely how every Value Centre is performing and measuring customer satisfaction levels. All of these factors result in us having a market leading service level we measure and monitor.

Q: Do you have plans to open in further locations?

There is ongoing investment in expanding and improving the existing Value Centre network. Since December last year we have moved into a state-of-the-art 60,000 sq ft facility in Dundalk and have revamped our Carlow Value Centre.


Fact File:

Name: Stonehouse Marketing Ltd

Number of branches nationwide: 28

Major locations: Nationwide

Number of customers: 5,000+

Number of lines in product listing: 200+ own brand

Tagline: ‘Homestead brings Value Home’

Ordering options: All communication types

Typical opening hours: 08:30 to 6pm

Size-range of outlets: 10,000 to 100,000 sq ft

Back in 2000, when a merger took place between Keencost Centres (which had been trading since 1975) and the National Wholesale Groceries Alliance (trading since 1961), Stonehouse was established. The coming together of these two entities, both of which had vast knowledge and experience, saw Stonehouse grow to become Ireland’s leading wholesale company, incorporating a network of 24 member companies, all of them family-run businesses, totalling 30 warehouses nationwide.

Tom Shipsey, CEO of Stonehouse

Tom Shipsey, CEO of Stonehouse

We caught up with Tom Shipsey, CEO of Stonehouse, to learn more about the company’s past, present and future…

Q: How extensive is your product listing and own-brand offering?

Our product listing covers the full range of grocery, confectionery, beverages, household, non-food, tobacco, alcohol and – for some members – chilled, fresh and frozen. We also cover the full catering range of goods as well as over 200 SKUs under the Homestead and White Hat exclusive labels.

Q: How do you ensure you offer value to customers through both pricing and promotions?

We constantly price check against our opposition but the final litmus test is our customer base. If we are out on price they are not long in telling us about it! We spend much time sourcing product both locally and internationally. We attend trade fairs and have really strong links with UK cash & carry groups in helping us find quality and value. Being smaller than our competitors means that our overhead is also lower. For instance, our central office only employs seven people. Stonehouse is a membership-based organisation; our members pay our salaries so every penny offered to us from suppliers on promotions goes straight to members for use with their customers, without any middlemen margin. Stonehouse provides both national and local monthly offer sheets for all customers.

Q: What methods do you employ to offer flexibility and convenience to your shoppers?

Stonehouse wins on location. We live and work right where our customers are based. This gives us the flexibility to give same day or next day deliveries on a vast proportion of our orders. We understand our customer needs because we pride ourselves on listening. The food business is about people. Our ordering systems are geared to take orders in person, or over the phone, by email, fax or more recently by electronic ordering with a number of our members.

Q: How does your foodservice offering stand out from competitors? How have you further developed this offering in the past 12 months to meet consumer trends?

For our specialised foodservice members, our foodservice offering has been heading towards a full “one stop” model on dry, fresh, chilled and frozen. We have had to adapt to changes in customer requirements and expectations on a fuller range and more specialised service. Price is always one of the key components but in foodservice, quality, reliability, range and ease of transaction are becoming more critical to customer requirements.

Q: How extensively do you market your cash and carry brand?

Probably not as much as our competitors do. Our strategy all through the years has been that the most important branding is of our individual member and our own labels; Stonehouse has been secondary. However, it is important that our customers know that the members are part of a large group, with the full backing of same on buying, sourcing, marketing etc. We run a major tradeshow annually under the Stonehouse banner which gives us good profile and all our member social media etc is linked to Stonehouse.

Q: How do your customer service teams strive to deliver the best possible experience for customers?

By being on the ground, by listening and by using the experience of the group to grow and develop our offering and customer experience.

Q: Do you have plans to open in further locations?

We are always ready to look at potential new members and I do believe we will see new members within the calendar year 2018!


 

 

Fact File:

Name: Musgrave MarketPlace

Number of branches: Ten branches across Ireland

Major locations: Branches are located in Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Galway and Dublin (Ballymun, Robinhood and Sallynoggin). Northern Ireland-based locations include Belfast, Derry and Lurgan

Number of lines in product listing: 12,000

Ordering options: in-store, online, via click and collect or by phone

Typical opening hours: 8am – 6pm

Leading online

With its advanced online presence and vast own-brand offering, Musgrave Marketplace is one of Ireland’s premier wholesale brands. Here, the company outlines its approach, policy and plans to grow the business in 2018 and beyond

Q: How extensive is your product listing and your own-brand offering?

Musgrave MarketPlace has over 12,000 retail and foodservice lines covering confectionery, soft drinks, grocery, chilled, frozen and dry catering food, alcohol, non-food and equipment. Musgrave MarketPlace stocks all leading brands along with an extensive range of own-brand products. Own-brands include Musgrave Excellence, Musgrave SmartBuy, Musgrave Professional, Butchers Select, Simply Meat, Daily Basics, Exclusive wines, Quell, Seasonal Fare and Fairway Foodservice.

Q: How do you offer flexibility and convenience to your shoppers?

Musgrave MarketPlace’s online platform Musgravemarketplace.ie has been re-developed to offer a flexible and ‘always-open’ shopping experience for customers. The upgraded web store has been designed with the specific goal of saving customers time by remembering previous orders and favourite products. Another key feature is the ‘Retail Must Stock’ section which uses current Nielsen data to provide customers with details on products that are seen as ‘must-haves’ for Irish retailers. Placing an order is now easier than ever. There is also a shopping app available for download through the Apple and Play store for iPhone and Android and it has a unique scanning tool whereby users can simply scan a barcode to place an order on their phone. Customers can purchase in-store, online, via click and collect or over the phone. Over 100 multi-temperature vehicles deliver nationwide and customers can get ambient, chilled and frozen product on the same single delivery.

Q: How does your foodservice offering stand out from competitors? How have you further developed this offering in the past 12 months to meet consumer trends?

As part of its ongoing investment in stores nationwide, Musgrave MarketPlace has relaunched its food service brochure ‘The Food People’ to offer customers even more choice. The new brochure features 400 new products which have been carefully selected based on food trends from around the world, ensuring that customers have access to the widest range and quality of products. The brochure is available both in hard copy and digital format. In line with the growing demand for more health and wellness products, the latest edition includes 260 ‘free from’ products which feature in its gluten free section. The ‘free from’ range is categorised as products that do not contain gluten or dairy, as well as healthy alternative snacks.

In response to 2016 food trends research, Musgrave MarketPlace also launched a new non-food brochure with over 4000 products, ranging from tableware, equipment, disposables and packaging to cleaning and hygiene. The brochure, titled Kitchen 2 Counter showcases the complete non-food range available from Musgrave MarketPlace.

Q: How extensively do you market your cash and carry brand?

Highly active, engaging social media platforms and regular, tailored events are two key elements which assist in the marketing of the Musgrave MarketPlace brand. For example, Musgrave MarketPlace’s Food Stories events provide attendees with inspiration for the next chapter in their own food journeys by offering expert tips from key tastemakers in the industry. The most recent Food Stories event was hosted by John Healy of TV3 show ‘The Restaurant’ and saw author and blogger Indy Power demonstrate summer inspired dishes from her book, ‘The Little Green Spoon’. Expert food stylist Jette Virdi shared top tricks for food styling and the benefits it brings to businesses while Irish chef Mark McCarthy gave guests a taste of notable food trends.

Q: Do you have plans to open in further locations?

Musgrave MarketPlace recently unveiled a €2.5m upgrade of its Robinhood branch in Dublin. The latest upgrade forms part of a €10.7m investment in the brand over the past two years which has seen Musgrave MarketPlace continue to redefine wholesale on the island of Ireland. The relaunch of the Musgrave MarketPlace brand began last November with the opening of the flagship €2.2m Ballymun Food Emporium. Over €1m has also been invested in its Duncrue branch in Belfast and further refurbishments are planned for 2018.


 

 

 

 

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