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Shopping with the General Public

Allowing the “general public” to shop in a wholesale/cash & carry environment has always been an emotional issue.  The now departed Nurdin & Peacock opened its registration base in the mid 1990’s when it remodeled its format to “Trade & Business Warehouses.” They were hit with a storm of rage from retail customers who demanded a “trade only” shopping environment. 

Twenty years later and the issue is very much back on the table.  Times have changed and the UK working age population (16 to 64) is riding high at 31 million[1] out of which 4.6[2] million or 15% are classed as self-employed. Set this against the number of independent retailers (33,000)[3] and caterers (263,000)[4] in the UK and the size of the opportunity soon becomes apparent.  The food and drink landscape has changed fundamentally with “convenience” as the trigger. Not just through convenience stores but with the availability of the number & diversity of outlets available and the convenience of online and app ordering and of having goods delivered to the door. Independent retailers and caterers are also taking advantage of online purchasing from a range of non wholesale sources including supermarket home shopping services, Amazon, Ebay and specialist niche retailing businesses. There was a time when the trading demarcation lines were clearly drawn but now all bets are off. 

In the UK it is the great wholesale taboo and we tend to be precious about this but it is normal practice in many countries around the world.  Bulk consumer shopping or “hybrid” warehouses are well accepted in companies such as Atacadao in Brazil, Massmart in South Africa and Eurocash in Poland. They are all commercially successful. 

In the UK, Costco Wholesale has been successfully selling to all types of business customers across the spectrum for many years. Independent retailers seem to shop very happily alongside small businesses and regular consumers. Costco does a great job across the store with new, exciting and different offerings while sprinkling it with glamour and theatre. It is always fresh & exciting.

We all need the wholesalers to be profitable and successful. Is it time for independent retailers to accept that they could be shopping in their cash & carry alongside members of the general public? Given all the online & digital shopping channels, is full transparency of price still and emotive issue? What are your views on this? Please let us know on the discussion forum. 

David Gilroy


[1]Office of National Statistics

[2]Office of National Statistics


[4]The Caterer Magazine

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