Happy New Year and Our Predictions for 2016!

Who can believe that the year 2015 has gone past so quickly, and here we are in 2016! Hope everyone has had a great start to the year and looking forward to keeping their New Years resolutions.

2015 has been an eventful year for the wholesale industry with Booker making another solid acquisition, Bestway nearing the 40 year mark and the likes of Lidl and Aldi continuing to create havoc in the grocery sector with the Big Four continuing to suffer.

So what are our predictions for 2016? Here we go bold and make some predictions for 2016 and so lets see if they come true by the end of the year!

Amazon Finally Arrives

We all know that Amazon has been testing the market in the grocery delivery market and has been stealthily growing its business. But we believe 2016 will see a shift in gear for the retailing behemoth and they will begin to make decent in-roads into the retail grocery market, affecting the big boys and shackling the status quo. They may also start their expansion into the wholesale sector but we see a few years yet until this will happen.

Lidl and Aldi move into Convenience Market

Lidl and Aldi have tested their pilot stores in North London in the convenience store market and we see this taking on a much larger momentum in 2016 with the opening of multiple stores. This will have a knock-on affect on the wholesale market with demand peaking and the more convenience stores being affected too.

Oil Stays Cheap

Cheap oil and hence cheap petrol will mean that deliveries become cheaper and product prices will decrease. This has already happened in 2015 and we see this trend of deflation continuing into 2016.


We see further consolidation in the wholesale market and the food delivered market too. It makes perfect sense – all those delivery vans running around central London – a merger would reduce the vans, traffic congestion and make more efficient deliveries too – Hey presto!

On-Line Ordering

On-line ordering which already has been growing will see explosive growth in 2016, reaching the tipping point as customers see just how much time and energy they can save from ordering online. We expect to see the increase in online sales doubling in 2016.

So there we have it – lets check back at the end of the year to see how close our predictions came!

Government Plans to Soften Sunday Trading Laws Facing Defeat

This week, the government plans to soften the Sunday trading laws for the large retailers is facing defeat, with the SNP fearing it could drive down Scottish workers wages. That combined with the fact that other MPs and some Tory rebels are voting against the motion means that it is most likely that the law will be defeated.

With the current law set at a maximum of 6 hours trading on a Sunday for the large retailers, this can have a big affect on current and future business in both the grocery and wholesale markets.

They competition is from online ordering – whereby orders can be made any time, any day and so with the shorter trading laws on a Sunday the online presence is looking even stronger.

The wholesalers with a strong online presence, like JJ Food Service, Booker and Bestway will continue to grow their business away from the retail side. However, other smaller wholesalers who do not have an online presence yet may see their share of the market slip as those looking to order online can only do so with the larger established wholesalers.

This is even more important in the wholesale sector with the convenience store owners typically do their stock takes and replenishments over the weekend when they have a break from running their business, or another family member can fill in for them.

Thus, the impact of the vote on the local wholesalers and retailers will be very interesting to see over the next couple of months.

54% of Supermarket Products are on Promotion

This week, market research firm IRI Group has announced the results of their research shows that 54% of products sold by the supermarkets and major retailers were on promotions such as ‘multi-buys’ and Special Offer promotions.

This compares with 28% in Europe overall, making the UK the country with the highest number of promotions in Europe. The impact for manufacturers is immense, as the promotions are no longer having the big impact on sales they once had, and the manufacturer is no longer seeing the uplift on promotions that are subsidised at the retailers. That combined with the misleading promotions means that something has to be done to tackle this problem, perhaps by introducing a cap or percentage of products that can be promoted by a retailer or supermarket on promotion.

So how does this fair in the wholesale sector?

The wholesalers all have their own ‘Special Offers’ for the week and also for the month and these are usually the most popular products to help bring the customers in through the door with seasonal variations. So soft drinks may be on ‘Special Offer’ in the summer, and alcoholic drinks in the winter close to the Christmas period. This product range is usually limited and no more than 10% of the range of products the wholesaler will sell.

Most wholesalers also feature a ‘multi-buy’ offer where if you’re buying 2, 3 or 4 products then you will receive a discounted price. This is prevalent and a ‘multi-buy’ is available on almost all products. Indeed, Start Catering and JJs Food Service offer a ‘multi-buy’ on more than 80% of their product range.

With our analytics software, a wholesaler can keep track of the ‘Special Offers’ and ‘multi-buy’ prices charged by competitors and so that they can time their own ‘Special Offers’ accordingly.

We will be looking in more detail at the ‘Special Offers’ and ‘multi-buys’ offered to customers to see if these really work and will report back with our findings!

The Living Wage Standards – How will this affect the Wholesale market?

The big four supermarkets have all announced varying responses to the Living Wage Standards which will come into affect next year, but have been trumped by the discounters Aldi and Lidl (again!).

Aldi said that it would pay its employees £8.40 an hour or £9.45 in London and Lidl has said that it will be paying at least £8.20 in England, Wales and Scotland and £9.35 for those in London.

Both Aldi and Lidl have been able to offer this as they already pay their employees a higher hourly rate than the supermarkets, and so it’s not so much of a big jump for them. Its also great publicity and advertising for them too, showing that they are the best paying retailers in the market today and looking after their staff. But essentially it’s also a business decision, as paying higher wages for staff reduced staff turnover and the costs that come with it.

So far, the supermarkets haven’t had much of a response with Sainsbury’s saying its employee wages are £7.20 for the workers over the age of 25 from April 2016. Tesco’s are at £8.80 and Morrison’s at £8.20 and so still behind the discounters but this could change.

With the wholesalers employing vast numbers of staff then what is their position? Well, Charles Wilson, CEO of Booker plc mentioned at the last AGM that they constantly monitor pay against retail sector standards and although they are keeping an eye on the situation they feel that they offer a fair wage.

So far, no other wholesalers have come out to comment on their current wage structure and the new Living Wage Standard and whether they will be increasing employees’ hourly pay to reflect this.

However, there is another big factor to consider here. With the rise of the Living Wage Standard then a large number of cafes, restaurants, bars etc. will be affected and the increased employee cost will hit the bottom line. Many of these bars, cafes etc will not survive and go bust, which in turn mean that wholesalers who supply them will be affected too.

So it would be interesting to see the affect on the wholesaler market next year, once the Living Wage Standard is live!

Tesco Faces Brand Guarantee Anger – Could this happen in Wholesale Too?

This week, Tesco has come under pressure from the Advertising watchdog on its Brand Guarantee campaign, which is said to flout the ruling that Tesco originally put in place itself. Tesco referred Sainsbury to the ASA over its brand match promotion three years ago and is getting the same treatment towards its own Brand Guarantee scheme now, how ironic!

The other supermarkets have complained the Tesco promotion is not clear – that the promotion is valid if you buy 10 branded goods or more, and that it only matches against its Big Four rivals and not the others. If it’s cheaper, you can get the saving on the till straight away.

This is Tesco’s attempt to turn around its worst year in history and get the shoppers coming back into its stores. It’s interesting to see that both Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s have used a ‘price comparison’ strategy to lure the shoppers back with both their Brand Match and Brand Guarantee promotions. So could this every happen in wholesale too?

So far, no wholesaler has been offering a ‘Brand match’ of their product prices versus a competitor in the same way as the supermarkets do. The main reason for this is that the wholesaler offers a range of prices for the products – there is a standard price and a ‘multi-buy’ price where a different price is offered if you purchase more than 3 items of the product. Hence, it can become quite difficult to compare the prices on an ‘apples to apple’s basis.

That coupled with the large number of products and difficulty in matching one product to another, makes the process very complex. However, we at ‘Improve That Price’ have been able to match wholesale products accurately using our propriety algorithms and compare the prices from each wholesaler on a like for like basis. Indeed, many of the wholesalers use our analytics to help set their prices in the marketplace too.

So a ‘brand match’ or pricing promise by the large wholesalers could eventually become a reality in the near future, as this data becomes more transparent and easy to understand.

National Curry Week is Here!

This week National Curry Week is in town from 12th October – 18th October and what a week it’s proving to be. Held every year since 1998 it is here to show case Indian food and to get the taste buds going. We at Improve That Price love Indian food and can’t wait to try out some of the traditional dishes from old and new restaurants this week.

Whilst chicken tikka may be the most popular dish in the UK, a traditional Indian curry still is behind pasta and pizza in the popularity stakes (according to The Independent) and so still has some way to go to being amongst the most popular dishes in the UK.

With the uplift in sales expected for National Curry Week, now may be a good time for wholesalers to be stocking up on their curry essentials for the numerous Indian restaurants up and down the country. Perhaps even giving a few promotions on curry related stocks like vegetable oil, onions, tomato’s, chilli powder, garlic etc may lure the Indian restaurant owner into their warehouse to stock up on the wares.

At Improve That Price, we have been tracking the cost of ingredients at the UK’s largest wholesalers over the last year and this data ensures that the restaurant owners can save money on their weekly shop for all their ingredients and dry stock needs. For example, Star Catering has Olympic Vegetable Oil 2 x 10Lt on Special Offer for £11.99 this week, a great saving for any Indian restaurant against the usual price of £16.99.

So be sure to check the best prices you can buy at using the Improve That Price website when your free!

Real Time Wholesale Prices now Available to Small Businesses

This week, we have now made it possible for any small business – café, bar, restaurant, caterer, convenience store etc. to have access to real-time prices of wholesalers to find out which provides the best price for specific products.

To date, the transparency of these prices have not been available to small companies and only been made available for wholesalers and manufacturers who use the prices to work out what their pricing strategies for promotions are.

As the monthly subscriptions paid by these wholesalers are much higher than small businesses can afford, it has not been possible to provide this for small businesses until now.

Hence, we have now launched a new subscription where small businesses can pay as low as £2.95 to get a day pass and see all the prices of products. Alternatively, you can also opt for the £9.95 per month subscription and have access to all prices every day, which we feel provides a very affordable option.

So why do you need real time pricing from wholesalers?  If you can see what the spot price of a product is and then compare to what you’re currently paying, then you can see if you will be saving some money just by moving wholesalers. Doing this once a week is good practice to keep an eye on the bottom line and making sure you’re getting the right price. With a lot of products you’re selling being pretty standard products, it then just comes down to which wholesaler you buy it from and at which price to enable your business to make as much profit as possible.

Wholesalers Improving their Online Experience

We have recently seen that wholesalers have started to improve their websites and online experience with new websites being launched over the last few months.

We first saw JJ Food Service with a newly improved website, closely followed by A to Z Catering and Nila has now launched their new website last week too. All the websites look much more slicker than before, with sharper photos and better user experience for the customers with an easy to use basket system.

Is this the way shape of things to come? We certainly think so and believe this has been long over due. Wholesale traditionally has been slow to adapt to the internet with user experiences we take for granted today, and we believe this adds momentum to purchasing online with the trips to the cash and carry becoming less and less frequent in the future.

Buying online has its advantages for the wholesalers. Firstly, there is less reliance on taking calls over the telephone, which means employing less staff in the call centre. Additionally, the orders are more accurate online as the user has put their own order into the system which equates to fewer incorrect orders.

Additionally, with more orders made online rather than customers coming into the store, less space is required for the depot and hence money can be saved in rent if the business.  For a lot of wholesalers, the land is bought freehold and so this doesn’t make such a big difference apart maintenance costs can be reduced as a result.

Once the wholesaler is online then there is the new task of attracting customers to the site. This involves SEO, optimising the site and conversion rates, as well as not losing any customers prior to the purchasing phase. This is a completely new area for the wholesaler and we recommend seeking expert advice in this.

It is great to see that the wholesale market is moving online with enhanced user experiences and we look forward to further advances in the near future too.

Food Suppliers Fear of Being Bullied by Supermarkets

Christine Tacon, the Groceries Code Adjudicator told peers yesterday that the watchdog had found it difficult to get suppliers to come forward with evidence of breaches of code of practices.

Thus, it appears as though the suppliers are all scared of being black listed and facing a potential loss of business if they tell about the current business practices implemented by the supermarkets. This has been further evidenced by the YouGov poll that says that 58% of suppliers feared retribution from the supermarkets.

Does this happen in the wholesale industry too? And if so, what can be done about it?

Typically, there is more competition in the consumer grocery business from the supermarkets than in the wholesale industry. The main reason is that the size of all the wholesalers varies, from very small wholesalers to the largest which is Booker, with £4bn sales. This is predominately cash and carry goods which are all branded products and so part of big manufacturing companies anyway.

Smaller food suppliers who supply the catering distribution companies like 3663, Brakes, Fresh Direct etc are squeezed on prices, but the products get absorbed into restaurant, café food etc and so the prices are not advertised nationally. The end consumer does not get to see the prices of tomatoes, cucumbers etc. and only sees the prices of the sandwiches, baguettes etc. which makes it less transparent. Hence, there is not a big price war on the supplier side.

Thus, we do not anticipate a similar supplier squeeze to the supermarkets in the wholesaler industry and although suppliers will be squeezed to some extent, but not to the extent of that being faced by the supermarkets.

Food Companies at Risk of Collapse – Impact on Wholesaler Market

It’s no secret that the number of food companies at risk of collapse has gone up over the last few months. Indeed, Begbies Traynor, insolvency specialists have reported that the number of food companies at risk of insolvency has risen from 2,878 in 2013 to 4,550  in 2014.

This is largely due to the pressures put on them by the supermarkets as the supermarkets in turn face competition from the discounters. Thus, it is inevitable that some will not survive, and this is happening all too swiftly in today’s very competitive market.

What kind of affect can this have on the wholesale and foodservice market? Well, for a start the foodservice and wholesalers are buying their fruit, vegetable and dairy product supplies from the farmers and food suppliers who are receiving less and less revenue from the supermarkets. Without covering their costs, their will in turn collapse and with it, all the other businesses who they supply will be affected.

This means that with fewer suppliers, supply is reduced and the prices of the products will go up, affecting the wholesalers and the end customers too.

Additionally, with the collapse of many suppliers, the wholesalers will need to find alternative sources quickly and hence may need to go abroad to secure the right prices or look at more expensive alternatives at home. This may have an impact on the quality of the produce and the cost too. It’s a balancing act that needs to be correctly addressed as there is a knock on effect for all.

Wholesalers and food service distributors should have contingency plans in case this does happen, to ensure that their own service to the customer is not affected. We hope as many food suppliers as possible are able to survive, with the help of Government grants as the problem is not just for them, but the whole grocery industry as a whole.