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19/08/2013

Pearls of wisdom from our new Chairman

Mark Windebank is owner and managing director of Savage and Whitten, the largest independent wholesaler in Northern Ireland. Mark is a board member of Today’s Group and now takes over as our Chairman replacing the much respected Rodney Hunt. We caught up with our energetic new Chairman Mark Windebank to ask him about Today’s Group plans and to pick up some great business building advice for independent retailers.

Q. Mark, congratulations on your new role. Can you outline the challenges facing Today’s Group right now?

Thank you! Today’s is already the largest and most successful independent buying group in the UK with buying power exceeding £5.5bn so our first challenge is to help our existing wholesaler members grow their businesses – even faster. Our membership crosses a lot of categories from foodservice to alcohol and we have always provided a wide variety of support to suit their needs.

Mark Windebank

Building on this work means we can achieve challenge two – recruiting new members across all categories because of the demonstrable business-growing benefits of Today’s Group membership.

Our third challenge is to continue our successful development of the strongest and most vibrant retail fascia group. This is vital for the future of independent convenience store retailers as they’ll find it increasingly hard to prosper if they’re not part of a group.

Meeting these challenges head on means we’ll continue to be the buying group of choice and ideally placed to develop even stronger links with wholesale suppliers.

MARK’S ADVICE FOR RETAILERS IN A NUTSHELL:

  • Join Today’s Fascia Group
  • Get an EPOS system
  • Set up online ordering
  • Stop buying and start selling

Q. Where do you see Today’s Group in 5 years’ time?

I am convinced that wholesalers will continue to view Today’s as the No.1 Buying Group and say to themselves, “I really want to be part of that”.

As an independent wholesaler myself, I realise that our major competitors are the multiples and not each other and that we must continue to help our independent retailers to compete profitably. To do this we need to reduce our costs and play to our strengths. If this means consolidation happens then so be it. Whilst specialisation can be a strength it does add to our overall costs and ultimately reduces our customer’s margins. Today’s Group has the ability to manage an extensive range of product categories, whilst adding value at the same time, and this will continue to be one of the prime reasons why independent wholesalers will become members.

I’m confident Today’s will develop at least 1,000 more good quality fascia group retailers across the UK and Ireland. My company Savage and Whitten will have over 100 stores by the end of 2013 and I want other members to achieve the same growth by giving their retailers the benefits of the Today’s fascia.

Q. What’s your best piece of business-building advice for convenience store owners?

Become a Today’s Symbol Group retailer! I’m serious. It’s becoming clear that independent retailers cannot prosper without the help, support and know-how of a major buying group and their wholesalers.

The second thing retailers should do is invest in the best information systems. Information is power. Convenience store retailers need to install an EPOS system to help with stock control, pricing, ordering and labelling.

And the third thing is to set up an online ordering system, which means you can place your orders ‘out of hours’ and so spend more time ‘customer-facing’.

Today’s Group has already invested in cutting edge technology at our head office and has always been committed to developing the most advanced IT and EPOS systems. I already support these outstanding efforts and will do everything possible to help retailers make best use of all the available technology.

And my final advice to retailers is to stop buying and start selling! Don’t spend days trawling around for the best deals. That’s your wholesaler’s job and they employ experts to do it. Trust your wholesaler to give you best value – or get another wholesaler!

Q. You were involved in developing the Today’s Fascia Group. Has it lived up to your expectations?

It’s exceeded them. At my company, although we have over 1,000 customers, our 92 Today’s Fascia Group stores account for 40% of our sales. It’s been a huge part of our recent growth and I’d urge every Today’s wholesaler member to get behind the initiative. It’s the future.

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Following the exciting news that Today’s Group and Landmark Wholesale have merged to form Unitas Wholesale, we are busy developing a brand-new website, which we’re looking forward to sharing with you soon.

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