LATESTPOSTS

Soar like an eagle

Posted: 23/02/2015

eagleLast week I was back in Kenya at the children’s centre (orphanage and school) that Cotswold Fayre supports on a monthly basis and with our charitable events. At our last ball in Summer 2014, a supplier present, said at the end of the evening that he would like to come with me next time I went. Thinking it was possibly due to the wine consumed, I wasn’t sure whether he was serious, but dropped him a line before Christmas when I knew I was going in February. To my surprise he was still up for it and the best thing about all this is that Laurence Harris is a dairy farmer, so has masses of knowledge to help with the farm I started here 20 months ago.

I met Laurence at Heathrow and discovered he had managed to check onto the plane a solar electric fence, with 50 posts and a kilometre of wire! This already seemed like it was going to be a different trip, and it has proved to be so far! (I may be back by the time you read this as getting a Wi-Fi signal here has its challenges and keeping the electrical devices charged also - thank God for the sun!) (more…)

Promoting Smaller Brands

Posted: 27/01/2015

promotingsmallerbrands

At this time of year I often spend time out with my sales team visiting retails, and this year is no exception, and I entered in to a debate yesterday I thought I would share with you. The conversation started from the reference point of a recent survey within the speciality food sector where retailers vote for their favourite brands. Incidentally Cotswold Fayre came out second amongst wholesalers - a remarkable achievement considering our “annus horribilis” in 2014, and puts us in a good position to nab top spot again next year!

However, I digress, back to the top food and drink brands. San Pellegrino was the top soft drink, and Teapigs were the top tea brand - both companies are owned by massive multi-national corporations, Nestle and Tata (Tetley’s) respectively. As independent retailers and wholesalers, would we be stocking brands owned by companies like this? (more…)

Planning for 2015

Posted: 12/01/2015

I am currently in paul_2San Francisco at the Winter Fancy Food Fair, which is not only giving me an opportunity to see what is new in the American and International food world, but also some time to catch up, reflect on 2014 and plan for 2015, after a rather hectic few weeks before Christmas.  Even more manic than normal as I also got married at Christmas!  So now the honeymoon is over and 2015 begins.

In fact, I made a strategic decision before Christmas, that will have a huge impact on my 2015 and allow me to concentrate on the areas of the business that I enjoy and am good at, rather than areas which I can do, but could do better.  So I appointed a Managing Director for Cotswold Fayre, who will be the boss of every department within the business, except product selection, marketing and selling, which I will be involved in more.  (more…)

Summer 2014

summer14Well, we have just had the hottest weekend of the year, so I am expecting a large upsurge in our soft drink sales this week. It’s time to think about summer merchandising. Aside from Christmas the months of June and July are often the best of the year for speciality food retailers as the warmer weather means that people in the UK are out more, tend to treat themselves and their guests for parties and barbeques and sales of snacks, drinks and barbeque-type products especially can go through the roof.

This year is a World Cup year, and whilst England traditionally have no chance at all, in previous years when this also has been the case, football world cups more than any other event tend to have a negative effect on speciality food sales. I am not quite sure why this is, but perhaps possibly that people go out less as they are glued to their TV sets. (more…)

Summer 2014

Looking forward to 2015

newsupplierconfIt’s that time to reflect on the year before we finish for Christmas.  Ok retailers, I know you are far too busy to do that as your shops are packed with hungry consumers, but for those of us on the supply end, the madness is nearly over and we can take stock and start planning next year.  I have spent probably a little too long in these ruminations over the last few months reflecting, so time to look forward!

The good news is that from the retailers I have talked to over the last few weeks, after a slow start, many of them seem pleased with Christmas sales to date, and expect to be up year on year when the figures are reviewed after Christmas, which bodes well for the start of next year.  There is nothing like a good Christmas to keep sales going better during the quieter months of the year January and February. (more…)

Looking forward to 2015

Teamwork

november_blogI listened to part of a fascinating programme on Radio Five Live earlier this week, whilst I was driving home from a late night in the office, on what goes on in the changing room of sports teams. Presented by Michael Vaughan, ex England Cricket Captain, there were interviews with international football, rugby and cricket players. In places it was hilarious as Michael Dawson described the England World Cup winning team locker room, where the forwards were head-butting each other, and occasionally requiring stitches before the match, whilst the backs were checking that their hair looked good before they ran out on the pitch.

The serious point though, from this, was to counter the perception that everyone in a sports team are great mates and years after representing their country together they are all round at each other’s houses, and on the phone to each other the whole time. (more…)

Teamwork

Interviews, Recruitment and People

recruitment_nov14I have recently been conducting a number of interviews for various new positions at Cotswold Fayre, and with a wealth of good candidates to choose from, it has made me think again about how to choose the best people to recruit. We probably all have different ways of judging and recruiting our people, which may involve structured interviews, informal interviews, psychometric tests, presentations and others. I have used all these and more in assessing whether candidates’ experience and characteristics will make them a good employee and one that will develop your company.

My current thinking as an owner of an SME, is that the positivity of the person and their ability to fit into the company culture are possibly more important than the candidates’ experience. (more…)

Interviews, Recruitment and People

The Demise of Tesco?

paul

It was amazing how many smiling faces there were around in the speciality food world last week with the bad news about Tesco on virtually every news bulletin for two days at least. I guess out colleagues, customers and suppliers were pleased to see the giant enemy taken down a peg or two after dominating the food spending in the UK for the last decade or two, and reaching a point where the previous CEO claimed that £1 in £7 was spent in his store - this isn’t just food spending but ALL high street spending.

Whilst we may not agree with its principals and reputation for screwing its suppliers so hard some of them go out of business, one has to stand back and admire what is one of the great successes of British business over the last 40 years. The British aren’t very good at admiring and respecting success and perhaps some of the good feeling last week was seeing a great success story enter into a period of failure. (more…)

The Demise of Tesco?

The largest pavilion to date!

sfff14_pavilion14

What a fabulous Speciality and Fine Food Fair last week. In terms of visitor numbers (which haven’t been verified yet) it looked to me as the busiest ever. Have you ever been up on the gallery of Olympia and looked out over the arena? It is fascinating to see where the different areas of the show are busiest at different times of day. Next year the show is moving to the smaller hall at Olympia as they have been bumped by the Jewellery Show, which in turn has been bumped out of Earls Court as that is being knocked down, so there will be an upstairs to the show again, which will add a different dynamic.

I was proud to note from the balcony that the Cotswold Fayre pavilion was larger than the Scotland, Wales & Irish pavilions, so we are officially now the largest exhibitor at the show. (more…)

The largest pavilion to date!

Dealing with Stress!

paulatdesk

Many apologies that is has been quite a while since I last wrote. There is a clue in the title of this blog. I thought I would make myself a human experiment for your sakes, just so I could relay my experiences to you! It’s been quite a few weeks, firstly I had to lose two senior members of staff on the eve of our biggest project for years i.e. putting in a new IT and warehouse management system. Usual horrendous week of implementation, and we were just starting to get on top of things when we had a flood! Yes, that’s right - a flood in the hottest spell of the year - massive storm, and water pouring in through our warehouse roof destroying any stock in its way. Two days of clearing up one of the great lakes of Canada within our warehouse. (more…)

Dealing with Stress!

Letter from America

letterfromamerica

I am currently at Fancy Food Show in New York, but possibly more importantly a few days out of the office to clear my head and get my head out of my laptop, and get an overview and fresh perspective. There is no better place than the USA for picking up new ideas and hopefully a few new products, and there are a couple of products I am specifically seeking for an important customer, and before you say anything these products aren’t available in the UK otherwise we would have bought them already.

I have been thinking about that dilemma recently. Cotswold Fayre is primarily a wholesaler of British and Irish speciality foods and that is the way it will always stay. However, with many of the British brands we sell throughout the UK through our field sales team of 8 and office telesales team of another 8, we are often only dealing with the small accounts. (more…)

Letter from America