Kenton Burchell, Bestway, Trading Director

“We’ve never been as close to our suppliers as we are right now”

FWD members have praised suppliers for their close partnership over the past six months and said this collaboration is the core of the sector’s response to Covid-19, the end of EU transition and an unusual Christmas.

In FWD’s first online discussion of the autumn, called Countdown to Christmas, Bestway Trading Director Kenton Burchell said: “It’s been so important. We’ve never been as close to our suppliers as we are right now, meeting them online almost every day to discuss availability at one point and we’ve shared more data than we ever have before as well, including live sales.

“We have different challenges in different categories, led by consumer trends around instant consumption and take-home, so we’re looking for suppliers to really understand the dynamics of what’s going on in the business. That’s how we’ll meet the challenge of planning for 2021 in an environment that’s really unpredictable right now.”

FWD: Bringing Wholesale Together

In contrast to the uncertainty facing the out-of-home market, Burchell said the convenience sector should be a priority for suppliers’ attention. “In the past six months, convenience retailers have played and continue to play a vital role in their communities, demonstrating the importance of local shopping,” he said.

“People are shopping a broader basket and retailers have made a lot of friends as customers have discovered there’s a better offer on their doorstep than they thought. We’ve seen premiumisation and take-home packs grow as they trade up as a replacement for eating and drinking out.”

Premier Foods Customer Director Ellie Krupa agreed that co-operation and communication has improved during the crisis.

“Convenience did brilliantly and played a fantastic role in the first wave of coronavirus,” said Krupa. “Sharing data and insight from then has been really important and we’ve learned a lot about which categories responded In which areas, and how to manage peaks of panic buying and limits on logistics so we will be able to protect convenience if they happen again.”

However she warned the growth of online shopping had “rocketed” and the convenience sector still has work to do to retain those shoppers who have come into convenience in recent months.

“We shouldn’t take it for granted that they will stay when the situation is a bit more normal,” she said.

Burchell said Bestway was anticipating an “incredibly strong” Q4 in retail. “Supermarkets can be a difficult environment to socially distance in and combined with colder weather and a confidence dropping about infection, that’s a recipe for more people to spend more time shopping locally.

“The supplier base should be ready for that and learn from the first wave by avoiding putting too much product in any one area to ensure availability is provided in the right place at the right time as consumers switch more to shopping locally in their convenience stores.

“With the trends we saw in the first wave, we will all want product to be where we can get it into our retailers and their local communities, not in multiple grocers.

“I think we will keep the momentum that we’ve built in the convenience sector into 2021, and keep those consumers who have re-engaged with their local convenience store, not only for impulse and top-up but for their main shop.”

The next FWD Bringing Wholesale Together online session is on October 28 at 2.00pm. These sessions are for FWD’s wholesaler, supplier and service provider members.

Bestway convenience coronavirus covid-19 Ellie Krupa FWD Kenton Burchell Premier Foods wholesale