The Demise of Tesco?

Posted: 29/09/2014


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 largest pavilion to date!

Posted: 15/09/2014


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…)

Dealing with Stress!

Posted: 01/08/2014


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…)

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

Letter from America


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

Summer Holidays

summerholidaysI always know it is summer when I arrive at the office at 7 a.m. on a Monday morning and have to open some of the 18 windows to let the weekend heat out! And that was the case this morning! What a weekend - although punctuated with the odd tropical downpour for some of us. Our sales suddenly jumped upwards last week in preparation for the forecasted warm weekend and long may this continue for all of us.

Certainly for Cotswold Fayre this promises to be a very busy summer, with all the usual activities going on: busy season for sales, trade shows, Christmas sell-in etc. and also for us this year a big new IT system going in, which will keep us all out of mischief for a few weeks! All this has led me to think about work-life balance over the last few weeks. Mine has gone to pieces recently, having been something I was relatively happy with a couple of years ago. (more…)

Summer Holidays

Expansion & Investment


It’s been a busy 2-3 weeks since coming back from Italy, with a weekend away in Prague (not work), a 24 hour trip to Ireland and our residential Christmas Sales Meeting. More of that later, but the feeling I am getting from those I talk to increasingly is that business is good and set to become better during 2014 and into 2015. Expansion plans for retailers are everywhere and suppliers are investing in new production facilities.

Take Ireland, for example. Those I talked to last week were feeling that for the first time since the demise of the Celtic Tiger, the economy was growing and there was a new confidence. This was from both food producers and the cab drivers who took me to and from the airport - and are much more talkative than their UK counterparts! (more…)

Expansion & Investment

The art of patience


I am writing this at the airport, waiting for my plane back to the UK, after an interesting few days in Italy in Verona. What a splendid city, one I haven’t visited before, but must do again when not working. Although sampling the local food and wine can hardly be described as taxing! One main thought is in my head as I travel home, and that is how much more the Italians value food than we do in the UK. In case you think that is an over-statement, I really don’t think it is. Of course, there is a small percentage of the UK who do exactly this - and they are our customers, in the main. But generally a much higher percentage of the population here, I am sure, care about their food, invest in their food and are prepared to wait for good food, rather than it being something that is a necessity before moving on to do something else more useful. (more…)

The art of patience

spring is here


So, the first national trade show of the year is over and the hard work of following up all the new enquiries begins. I must say that there was a great sense of buoyancy at the NEC and people are looking to the food sector as one of the areas to drive growth in the UK at present. For example, there were several film crews at the Farm Shop & Deli Show, and you can see my debut on Irish television at 6pm this Wednesday (2nd April) on RTE. It was filmed after a straight two hours on the “Farm Shop and Deli Live” stage, so not sure how coherent I was!

So as I said many pluses on this show, which has a high percentage of people coming through the door, who are relevant to the sector. Let’s face it, whilst the NEC is central to many, it is a venue you have to plan to come to. The venues in London are more conducive to members of the public dropping in, so attract more time-wasters. In other ways, however, the NEC is a complete joke. Why when there are acres and acres of car parks do they charge punters to park? (more…)

spring is here

From Bala to Birmingham


I am in the middle of a gear change - desperately trying to catch up with lots of projects after coming back from Kenya earlier this week, before heading up to the NEC on Sunday for the Farm Shop and Deli Show (part of Food & Drink Expo). By the way I am only setting up on Sunday, the show this year has changed to Monday-Wednesday, rather than Sunday-Tuesday. I have already encountered a number of people who told me they were going to the show on Sunday - you can but only if you want to help us set up our stands! Perhaps William Reed lacking a little in communication here?

My regular trips to the orphanage in Kenya do add a good perspective to all I do, and I would thoroughly recommend anyone to become involved in something other than your day-to-day business activities. This time I took two colleagues with me, and both have told me that it was a “life-changing experience” and are very pleased to have that opportunity. (more…)

From Bala to Birmingham