Paul Visits Bala

Posted: 16/11/2015


I sometimes wonder about the different motivations behind people who start their own businesses.  These drivers of the economy, who, combined, employ more people than the multi-national companies in the UK, sometimes end up running businesses for very different reasons.  There are those that are purely in it for profit, and aim to have a great lifestyle, and then live on the proceeds of a sale later on.  There are some who simply have had enough of working for others and want to be in control of their own destiny.  There are those that have an idea or product that they are so passionate about, their ‘raison d’etre’ is to be evangelistic and “convert” others to their product or idea.  Finally, but not exhaustively, there are those that think of it all as a game that they must win – these are the ultra-competitive ones, and must win at all costs. (more…)

Carbon Footprint

Posted: 02/11/2015


Many large businesses across the UK now have clearly-defined targets on reducing their carbon footprints, and have just become one of the first B Corporations in the UK, this is something very much on our agenda.  I’ll confess here that we passed the standard for B Corp without much of a score in the environmental department, but I have started to look at this area since.  In effect, wholesalers are logistics companies with a sales and marketing department, not quite what I planned to start when I started selling a few products from the Cotswolds in London in the late nineties!  However, we are what we are!  So it was with some trepidation when I started doing some mathematical modelling a few weekends ago to calculate what is the “green” way for speciality food retailers to stock themselves.

I selected some random customers spread all over the UK, stocking products from an equally random group of suppliers also spread all over the UK.  The results were as I had hoped for and even more so.  Due to the much larger (more…)

Change is Coming – B Corporations

Posted: 05/10/2015


I am proud to say that at the launch of B Corporations in the UK last week, Cotswold Fayre was one of 60 founder companies to be accredited in the UK.  We were joined “in the club” by one supplier and one customer, so a small start but this movement will grow.  What are B Corporations?  Simply put:  A for-profit business that has social and/or environmental outcomes as part of its mission.  Each one of the 60 founder members have gone through an extensive B Impact Assessment which looks at five areas:  Governance (Accountability & Transparency), Workers (Job Growth, Compensation & Work Environment), Community (Suppliers, Local, Diversity & Charity), Environment (Energy Use, Facilities, Supply Chain & Manufacturing) and Business Models (Service, Products & Value Chain).  Out of a potential score of 200, you need to score 80 or more to become a member.  Despite scoring well in many areas, we only scored 84, so there is much work to be done.  One particular challenge for us is to become greener, which is difficult when we are moving goods all over the UK and Europe. (more…)

Gourmet Africa


Gourmet Africa is the most authentic range of flavours to come from the exciting continent of Africa. These unique products are creating a food revolution from Africa by forging a brand new culinary frontier set to colonise the world of food.

The Gourmet Africa range will be available from April 2015. Taste the range of African BBQ sauces for yourself by visiting the Cotswold Fayre pavilion, stand R90G at the Farm Shop & Deli Show, NEC Birmingham, 20-22 April 2015.

Gourmet Africa

Summertime Musings


By the time you read this, I will hopefully be enjoying some Italian sunshine and food, washed down with a large glass of cool Pinot Grigio!   So what better time to let off some steam, particularly bearing in the mind the people who may recognise themselves may be away on holiday themselves, and might not read it.  Actually I am amazed quite how many people read my musings and rantings, so maybe I ought to be a little more careful in what I say, but maybe not, as they would become as dull as dishwater.

What better than to start with the weather.  At first I thought this summer’s weather wasn’t too bad, but then a couple of articles I read about how poor food sales had been this summer both made the point that we haven’t really had an extended period of weather long enough for people to plan a BBQ for the weekend, and it is those kind of events that pull through sales of many of the products found in our customer’s stores.  It has definitely not been a classic summer, but the colder summer has probably helped us smash our records for Christmas orders to go out later in the year. (more…)

Summertime Musings

The Living Wage


Every time I have picked up a trade magazine since the budget a few weeks’ ago, I have had to read articles written by business leaders moaning about the new government’s plans to introduce the “Living Wage” rather than the current “Minimum Wage” by 2020.  Let me put my cards on the table and say that we have always paid above the living wage even before it was on trend to do so, so we will be registering with the Living Wage Foundation to make this public.  But I have always looked around at the wages for a particular job within the area and ensured that we were paying around the average rate and more for those particularly talented individuals that we wanted to reward more.

I simply don’t understand why employers would want to do anything other than this for various reasons:

  • Surely paying people a living wage for the job they do makes for happier employees.  Happier employees generally do better work, therefore earning you more profit. (more…)
The Living Wage

Funny - people, aren’t they?


Maybe I am getting old, or maybe I am just becoming a “grumpy old man”, but the longer I live this life, the more peculiar people seem to become!  Or perhaps I am a keener observer of people and can see through masks better than I used to.  Just a theory!  Last week we had our biennial Supplier’s Conference, and I was standing on the stage addressing 180 people I was thinking, including some Cotswold Fayre staff, we are a motley crew aren’t we?  That to some degree is the joy of being in this non-corporate sector – you really do see all shapes and sizes, metaphorically speaking, of course!

We tried a daring exercise, borrowed from others as all the best things are.  We grouped suppliers into groups of around 6 and supplied them with different coloured post-it notes.  On three different colours they were to tell us 1) What we should CONTINUE doing, 2) What we should STOP doing and 3) What we should START doing.  (more…)

Funny - people, aren’t they?

Christmas is Coming…

Christmas Is Coming

Well, Christmas is in full swing now at retailers and wholesalers throughout the UK.  Well, not quite, but we have received around 50% of our Christmas orders and there will be a flurry of orders between now and when the schools break up in a few weeks.  In fact in this job, I never manage to quite extract myself from thoughts of Christmas.  Quite sad really isn’t it!

We had our first planning meeting for Christmas this year on Monday 5th January, were planning the range throughout February and March, Christmas Sales Meeting in April and managing the team selling in Christmas and attending a few roadshows throughout the last few months.  Paradoxically once we draw closer to Christmas itself in September and our warehouse has to grow expandable walls, I am much less involved as our excellent operational team take over in despatching the orders to our customers. (more…)

Christmas is Coming…

Selling Strategy


A couple of comments this week from different quarters have caused me to think, and as I was with some retailers at the Association of Independent Stores Food Gift Show this week, generated some conversations there too.  The first was an e-mail from a long-standing customer in London to one of my Regional Account Managers basically saying in a nutshell:  “Thank you for all your service and products over the past 8 + years, but we have decided to change what we are doing, and are going to source products directly from Europe that are exclusive to us in London.  We love your products but we see them in other stores nearby, which you must be supplying, and don’t want to be the same as them.”

It was a much longer e-mail than that, but that was the gist of what they were saying.  I completely understand where they are coming from, and as they have 2-3 stores this strategy may work logistically for them.  (more…)

Selling Strategy

Work-Life Balance

I was on holiday recently which transitioned into a period of sickness, as coincidentally, I went down with malaria during the holiday, which must be connected to a previous trip to the children’s centre in Kenya earlier this year or even before. The doctors are certainly confused, and I have been extremely frustrated with my normal abundant energy being removed from me as my ravaged red blood cells recover.

Any holiday certainly gives time for reflection, which is why I have always ensured I have had plenty of time out. Apart from anything else others within the business have to pick up what I normally do, which can only have a positive effect on growth for the future. I remember talking to a supplier at our last Supplier Conference (next one coming up 6-7th July this year by the way) who seemed to enjoy telling me he hadn’t had a holiday in 10 years. Something has gone badly wrong there, I would suggest. (more…)

Work-Life Balance