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Paul Hargreaves is the chief executive of Cotswold Fayre a specialist fine food wholesaler.

“Off to the show”

So, many of us will be off to the Farm Shop & Deli/Convenience Show this week. I’m writing this on Sunday and will be off later today to help set up our stand. I thought it might be interesting for a moment to compare the three types of shops named in the title of this show: Farm Shops, Delis and Convenience stores. How are these three types of shops doing in the current retail landscape? And what can they learn from each other?

“United in leadership?”

There was a news story last week, which is still ongoing, that will be used in business courses for years to come. PR companies will use it as a salutary lesson for years to come and undergraduates will be taught “how to devalue a company’s stock in three easy lessons”. I am, of course, referring to the United airlines fiasco or lessons on how not to treat a customer!

“Welcome to summer – (and Christmas!)”

What a fabulous weekend! I really enjoyed my three days away in Tallinn last weekend, and can thoroughly recommend a visit there. However, I got the timing horribly wrong. It was 18 degrees at home last week and when we arrived in Tallinn, only one degree. So, do go, but wait until May. However, that cold weather is thoroughly appropriate for today’s task of helping to proof-read the Christmas Catalogue. Yes, I know, it’s annoying isn’t it! We’ve only just recovered from the last one, but don’t blame me. We only followed the larger wholesalers who had been doing it for many years before Cotswold Fayre started! The belief is that the early bird catches the worm around May!

“Keep looking forward and stay positive”

Comments this week from one of the Waitrose directors following Brexit Wednesday (as it may become known) almost seemed to be expecting a good performance from the partnership due to an economic downturn in 2017. He is right, Waitrose, performed their best in the last decade during the deepest parts of recession. By no coincidence, Cotswold Fayre tends to grow faster in times of low economic growth. Why is this? Well, we are both in the retail sector at the premium end, and it has been shown that in tough economic times consumers cut down on large ticket items but do treat themselves with good food and confectionery. Also in less good economic times, more cooking at home goes on and less eating out at restaurants

“Inflation to lead to pay demands?”

With the news within the last week of a sharp rise in inflation up to 2.3%, it is expected next month that the average wage increase will dip below the average pay increase of employees for the first time for 3 years. The average pay increase is currently 2.9% and it is expected that this will drop slightly and inflation will increase above this when the March figures are issued in a month’s time. This means, of course, that worker’s wages will be decreasing again in real terms, which is bound to increase pressure on employers, who are already feeling squeezed on many other fronts: Brexit, Living Wage, Business Rates etc. as discussed previously

“The politics of uncertainty”

By the time you read this Article 50 may well have been triggered, or it May have been delayed (see what I did there?) I have made my views on Brexit very clear over the past year, so have many others within the business world, but I like them whilst we voted “Remain” had resigned ourselves to the process of leaving, hoping for a smooth transition. I wouldn’t say that I have become optimistic about being out of Europe but had begun to see some positives

“Back to Africa”

I’m writing this week’s blog from Western Kenya, where I am visiting our project and planning to try and make the children’s centre (orphanage and schools) more self-sufficient

“Inflation”

It seems that inflation will remain a hot topic for everyone within the next few months, but maybe especially for those in the food and drink sector. The February figure will be out soon and many are expecting it to be 2% or over. The last time that happened was in 2013, and only a year ago, the figure was a measly 0.3%. I am doing my research as I have been asked to be part of a panel to discuss rising inflation at the forthcoming convenience show in April! It does seem as if there may be a perfect storm brewing with various factors coming together at once. Let’s have a look at them and what we can do about them

“Too small to survive?”

I am always more interested in Dragon’s Den when companies come on from the speciality food world. I think this series, so far, there have been three – and in any event there always seems to be at least one food and drink company on the programme. What is especially interesting, of course, is to find out the financials of these suppliers, or in some cases, ex-suppliers. These are the kind of questions it is not polite to ask during supplier meetings, and most suppliers are too small to have to post full audited accounts, so illuminating to see what is really going on

“Retail trends in 2017”

I thought this week I would share insights on what I expect some of the retail trends to be in 2017, which have inspired some of our product choices this year

“Don’t place too many eggs in one basket”

Why is it that the same old lessons need to be learned time and time again? I received a phone call last week advising me that one of our suppliers had gone into administration. Launched at the peak of the popcorn revolution, Portlebay Popcorn, were different to many in that they made their own products. Very commendable and something we look for as a priority with our suppliers

“The New Superpower of Food?”

Well that was a surprise to most of us – who would have forecast that Tesco would make a bid for Booker?

“Innovate to survive in 2017”

There is no chance of complaining at present of the world being boring. As I have started to write this blog, breaking news has just popped up on my phone, “President Donald Trump, America’s 45th Commander-in-chief has just been sworn in”. Five minutes prior to that the breaking news was Jeremy Corbyn saying in a speech that Scotland couldn’t survive as a separate nation, should it vote to remain in the EU and leave the UK – a very real possibility in my view. It’s Scotland where I am for the next few days at Scotland’s Speciality Food Show. I’m looking forward to seeing our many Scottish customers, many of whom travel for hours to come to this show, even if we are in deep snow, which it actually looks like won’t happen for a change

 
The Trade Destination that can Transform your Business

The Trade Destination that can Transform your Business

From 24 – 26 April 2017 at the NEC Birmingham, the speciality food and drink industry will come…

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