Lioncroft Wholesale: Wouhra’s pride
After securing the deal to buy back his family business, Dr Jason Wouhra OBE is ready to unveil its new identity
There’s something in the air at Lioncroft Wholesale. As you arrive in the car park at its Aston depot, you can practically feel it rippling down the stairs and straight through the doors. It’s written on the face of every person you meet, and it was evident all the way through our meeting with Chief Executive Dr Jason Wouhra. Excitement, passion and pride.
Lioncroft is ready to share what it’s been beavering away at for more than two years since Jason Wouhra and his father, Jas, secured the deal and bought back both the Aston and Smethwick depots in 2020. The company has been trading as East End Wholesale Stores but is getting ready to fully emerge with its brand-new identity: Lioncroft Wholesale.
READY FOR THE FUTURE
“We couldn’t rebrand straightaway because our customers wouldn’t recognise the name”, explains Jason. “So we decided to hold back for a couple of years. All our suppliers now know us as Lioncroft, so we’re very confident that we will fully rebrand this year.”
Like a swan gliding across the water while working vigorously beneath the surface, Jason and his team have been working hard ensuring the infrastructure of Lioncroft is ready for the future.
“We have spent two years forming the foundation of the new business, making it as strong as we possibly can before we, ultimately, grow the business and move towards an even more successful future.
All this development and investment has largely been behind the scenes, and now we’re getting ready to unveil our hard work.”
Wholesale is a family business for the Wouhras. With footprints in the industry spanning more than four decades, it’s no surprise the captain sailing the ship is feeling hugely passionate about this next step.
“We want to continue the legacy of our family business,” says Jason.
“We’ve taken our knowledge of business built over 50 years and developed a new formula. I’m very proud of what we have achieved in the past couple of years. It’s been about me and my family buying back our business and wanting to harness that legacy, build on it and drive it forward to grow the business. A family business carries a lot of weight, as long as you have a strong culture with everyone united in one vision, like we have here.
“We have a unity and an energy at Lioncroft. Our family values have always been Honesty, Opportunity, Purpose and Energy, which spells hope. We’re all hopeful and strive for a better tomorrow.”
BUILDING A FOUNDATION
When it comes to working towards a successful future, investment has been a key part of the transformation of the business. Jason and his team have spent the past two years making strategic investments to the tune of millions of pounds, all with the aim of future-proofing the business. Rebuilding the team and bolstering the company’s digital presence have been among the key focuses.
“Success is building a foundation”, explains Jason. “We have recruited between 50 and 60 people over the past couple of years, which has been a huge highlight. We have an entirely new management team, and we have harnessed talent from across the industry to create a brand-new business. As a team, we have new values, a new vision and a new mission to make the brand as strong and successful as we can going forward.”
OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH
With strong foundations now in place at Lioncroft, the team are looking to the future, with organic growth and identifying new opportunities at the heart of their vision.
“There are a lot of moving parts to Lioncroft, and we’re very much geared for growth. Retail club is a huge area of importance for us.
We’re also looking to grow the hospitality offering of Lioncroft in a big way because we’re already finding great success in that arena and we already have a lot of hospitality customers, so it makes sense to put our efforts and investment into growing this further.”
It’s not just hospitality that Lioncroft is looking to expand over the coming years. Jason has identified another avenue he wishes to grow.
“The ethnic foods side of the brand is already really successful; it’s a real core and a USP for our company. There is a huge opportunity in this country for a strong ethnic food offering. If you look at people’s eating habits, you’ll see they aren’t just eating English cuisine or Indian cuisine, they’re trying a bit of everything. Retailers can actually give a lot of space to world food in their store and introduce the consumer to it and convince them to try new things.”
Recognising consolidation in the market, Jason believes we are likely to see more of this in the future.
“You’ll see people pulling together more and more. There will be new groups forming that will represent our industry in a more uniformed manner. Protecting the independent trade is a big opportunity and we need to make sure we protect this massively strong industry we’ve got. Retail clubs and fascia groups play a massive part in that. We want to provide our customers with the support to enable them to keep doing the fantastic work they’re doing.”
According to Jason, when it comes to enabling your business to respond well to opportunities to grow, it is important to try not to get tied up in red tape and bureaucracy as the benefits can set your business apart.
“We can make changes to this business in a matter of hours,” he explains. “It’s about putting the right people in the right places to make a difference. We take pride in being reactive as that causes stability and means we can make a real difference very quickly.”
With the challenges facing the wholesale sector, support is needed from the government but as Jason explains, companies’ futures are in their own hands ultimately.
“Businesses can’t rely on government to determine their future, but we welcome support with anything it can provide when it comes to skills and training and bolstering employability, getting people into the right skills set and providing the training needed to get them there. Government needs to make the tax structure competitive so that businesses can invest in themselves, enabling them to grow.”
When it comes to support from suppliers, Jason believes the power of wholesale is sometimes underestimated.
“This business is determined by an entrepreneurial spirit that drives it forward,” he says. “We have 7,000 customers, and those 7,000 customers have 30,000 distribution points. In the wholesale industry, there is a tendency to use us as a training ground, which isn’t beneficial. Suppliers miss a trick by underestimating the power of our sector.”
While there may have been many changes at Lioncroft Wholesale, there is one focus that has remained untouched: supporting the customer. With second and third generations of customers visiting Lioncroft Wholesale on a daily basis, Jason knows that his primary task is to ensure these retailers are looked after and well-equipped for the future.
“Our offering for independent retailers needs to be stronger and even more dynamic. We always ask ourselves what makes us different and how we can further support our retailers. We have always prioritised supporting our customers, and we will continue to do so.
READY TO ROAR
Jason is keen to remind onlookers that while Lioncroft Wholesale is founded and rooted in a strong heritage with 50 years of experience, this new business has its eyes firmly on the road ahead and not on the rear-view mirror.
“We’re very much about the future,” he asserts. “It’s an entirely different business now. What drives us and keeps us motoring on is an entirely different goal to the past.”
It’s clear to see why the excitement, pride and passion pours out of the doors at Lioncroft. With Jason Wouhra at the helm, it seems like the future of this ship is looking very bright indeed. As Jason himself says, Lioncroft is ready to roar.Jason Wouhra Lioncroft Wholesale