Amaan on top of expansion

UWG MD reckons wholesaler has what it takes to succeed south of the border

United Wholesale Grocers MD Amaan Ramzan

JUST over one month into its southern expansion, United Wholesale Grocers (UWG) is making great strides at its new site in Gateshead near Newcastle.

Amaan Ramzan, managing director of UWG said his team has been working flat out to manage the transition since acquiring the site from fellow Landmark wholesaler Blakemore Wholesale in late May.

“About 22 members of our team in Glasgow went down to Gateshead to help do the initial set up. As you can expect with new systems going in there were a few teething problems but nothing that we haven’t been able to get up to scratch,” said Amaan.

While there is plenty for the UWG team to integrate, including the Gateshead depot’s Landmark Wholesale symbol customers trading under the Lifestyle fascia, Amaan said the transformation from a Blakemore site to UWG is already more or less complete.

“We’ve been giving it a United feeling rather than a Blakemore feeling,” he said.

“Our signage is already up, that was the first thing we did, and the internals have been stripped to how it would be as a United depot.”

Amaan’s plans for Gateshead include expanding the range, providing local retailers with a broader selection to choose from.

“When we took over we probably only had 60% of the range that we would usually keep so there’s a 40% increase in range,” he said.

According to Amaan, that range extension isn’t just good news for retailers but could also create opportunities for manufacturers looking to expand their footprint in the independent sector.

“There are manufacturers, whether they are south of the border or north of the border, that are getting excited and they are being presented with opportunities.

“It’s a good position to be in because I think at this moment in time suppliers need people investing in this sector.

“Very few people have been investing but we’ve been bold enough to do it, Parfetts have been bold enough and Bestway of course. I think we need people like us to invest in this sector.”

Amaan’s move on a wholesale depot south of the border comes as consolidation continues throughout the retail industry, with high-profile deals such as the Tesco and Booker merger, The Co-op’s acquisition of Nisa and the provisional merger of Asda and Sainsbury’s leaving manufacturers with a lot to consider.

“They’ll have a higher market share sitting with fewer customers which is not a very good place to be, so they need people like us to be investing in the sector to keep it growing strong,” he said.

All of this consolidation may point to a challenging future for wholesalers who must square up to the buying power of behemoths like Tesco, but Amaan continues to be bullish about UWG’s prospects for the years ahead.

“I think we’ve got a better offer. I know we’ve got a better offer,” he said, “Whether it’s price, whether it’s service, whether it’s availability or whether it’s range; we tick all four boxes.”

And while the merger has given Amaan and his team plenty of work in Gateshead, the UWG boss had plenty of praise for those who have kept the ship sailing at the firm’s Glasgow depots.

“The team here have been fantastic. They have stepped up big time and taken all the headaches away and we’ve been managing,” he said.