Posted: 19/12/2013

Joe Wall: ‘Artisans need feedback from shops before seeking a distributor’

New artisan producers should gain experience of supplying shops direct before looking for a wholesale distributor, according to Joe Wall, MD of The Cress Co.

The Scottish speciality food distributor told FFD small start-ups often over-estimated what a middle-man could achieve, when they first needed to iron out issues with their product, packaging or pricing.

“Unless they are experienced or very commercially aware, these small producers should do some direct-to-retail work first,” said Wall, whose Dunfermline-based business handles around 1,200 lines in Scotland and the north of England.

“We get people who are not getting much traction and think a distributor will help. But they need to go back to retailers and get feedback on prices and packaging.”

Wall said relatively low barriers to entry in sectors such preserves or bakery meant a lot of start-ups were “lifestyle” businesses. “You often look at products that are lovely, but they haven’t got the commercials,” he said. “Then, when you don’t take them on, people take it very personally – it’s like you’d criticised their children.

“It’s not about being mean, but you have got to get over those hurdles.”

As well as distributing for Scottish producers, The Cress Co handles a number of other UK brands north of the border, including Luscombe soft drinks and Clipper teas.

It recently opened a depot in Wetherby, North Yorkshire, and Wall revealed that he hoped to open a depot further south, to serve London and the M4 corridor, within the next year.


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