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

“Corporate & Social Responsibility…”

Several years ago, large companies started talking about 'Corporate & Social Responsibility' and smaller companies started talking about 'Giving Something Back'

“The trade show season”

I am writing this having spent my third Sunday on the spin at a trade show. It is that time of year, and any thoughts of getting away skiing seem to have been scuppered by the plethora of trade shows these days between Christmas and Easter

“What’s happening Stateside?”

This week I am just back from the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco via the confectionery and snack show in Cologne and six Cotswold Fayre launch events. Who said January was quiet?

“The Blue Planet effect”

The BBC programme Blue Planet II may well be looked back on as a pivotal point in the British people’s attitude to excess plastic in our food packaging. The tide of public opinion has turned. What we need now are producers, retailers and local authorities to act. Many local councils do not recycle plastic. They must. Those local authorities that do offer plastic recycling of sorts are apparently sending the plastic to China to be recycled increasing the carbon footprint. Why are we not doing this here?

“Beware of debtors in January”

Certainly, the early feedback I have had from retailers about Christmas is that it was a good one. My sales team also report very few Christmas products in discount baskets in stores, and our early January sales are significantly up on the same weeks in early 2017. It does appear that, overall, the Christmas Goose has been fat for the speciality food sector

“New Year, new you?”

It would be a cliché to roll out a load of stuff on New Year's resolutions: how you are going to do better this year? What you are going to do differently? etc. And I have probably done that before, and I am sure many of you do this naturally at the start of a year and after the madness of Christmas. However, some of this can be ‘flogging a dead horse’. Trying to do something better in an area of your life or business that simply is not working is a waste of time. If you keep notes on what you were planning or thinking at the same time last year, have a look at them now. Are any of them similar? Then maybe it is time to be more honest with yourselves?

“Happy Christmas!”

On the basis that most retailers should be far too busy to read any digital content this week, and several suppliers are shutting or winding down, I will keep this week’s piece extremely brief. Learning lessons from Christmas past:

“Seeing the bigger picture”

I was in London over the weekend and as I last visited the Tower of London when I was 10, I thought we should pay it another visit. To stand in the same space as William the Conqueror nearly 1,000 years ago is amazing, when you step back and think. And to think all the people who throughout our history who have been within those buildings is absolutely amazing, from Henry VIII to the Duke of Wellington and many, many more – some of them lived to tell the tale! Thinking of such a long period of time, it does make me think how small I am in comparison

“Endings”

It’s been a couple of weeks of endings for several businesses. At Cotswold Fayre, two of our new suppliers for 2017 have stopped trading less than a year after we started with them. Thor Drinks has done it properly and gone into administration but the other, Little Turban, has disappeared off the face of the planet, leaving orders unfulfilled and customers disappointed. They leave behind a still live Twitter account and a consumer website, still taking customer’s money – I know because I placed an order as a last resort to see if anything would happen. It didn’t!

“The art of selling”

Following on from last week’s thoughts, I have been wondering whether digital technology has reduced the need of those within SMEs to be able to sell. The thought stream sometimes seems to be that if you put yourself out on social media enough then business will flow in. Is this true or false?

“Do face-to-face relationships matter any longer?”

As I write this week’s thoughts I am simultaneously preparing for the Cotswold Fayre New Supplier’s Conference tomorrow. This annual event is when we spend a day with our January launch suppliers and allow them to get to know us, our company and culture. We also ensure all the ducks are lined up for successful launch in 2018. Yes, we could do the event as a webinar or maybe send them a VT or put something on YouTube. But nothing can beat looking into each other’s eyes, hearing each other’s voices and understanding each other. I am sure many of you have spent hours gazing into the eyes of the one you love – certainly in the early stages of the relationship, at least. Through the eyes we communicate sometimes far more than words! And through heart-to-heart relationships things are achieved and built

“Do speciality producers really support independent retailers?”

I had to pretend to be a chef for the evening last Friday Night. Last June, rashly I had offered into an Auction of Promises for a fund-raising event for our orphanage in Kenya a “Restaurant Quality Meal for 6 Cooked at your Home”. The bidding had gone up to £150, so the pressure was on to come up with something good, so in an attempt to be hyper-organised I had started preparation on Thursday evening for the event on Friday

“The growth of crowdfunding for food and drink start-ups”

Many of us now have several e-mails a month from the latest food and drink start-up to try and raise funds through crowdfunding, but how many of us have invested? This week I thought I would explore the area a little further and try and answer the question of whether it is a good idea to invest our hard-earned cash into crowdfunding food and drink start-ups

 
The Sweet Spot

The Sweet Spot

The Sweet Potato Spirit Company's distinctive drinks are currently going down a storm. And with…

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