CJ Lang is a smooth operator

Spar Scotland wholesaler reveals secrets to success

The distribution centre and transportation play vital roles, says CJ Lang chief executive Colin McLean.
The distribution centre and transportation play vital roles, says CJ Lang chief executive Colin McLean.

BUILDING a good convenience proposition begins with getting the basics right.

And that’s what wholesaler CJ Lang & Son Ltd seems to be doing in abundance for the retailers in its Spar Scotland symbol group, be they independent or company-owned stores.

The attention to detail of getting every order for each retailer request right is a precise science.

It requires lots of logistical expertise as well as technology, as Scottish Grocer discovered on a tour of the Dundee headquarters.

The massive distribution centre has been structured to ensure produce is as fresh and high-quality as possible.

It’s also laid out in such a way that retailer orders can be put together in an efficient and timely way by the depot’s pickers.

As well as bespoke produce, frozen and milk sections, different areas of the building are chilled to various temperatures to suit the goods being stored in them.

There are also sectors devoted to the most popular SKUs as well as others to slower-selling lines.

Bigger volume and lighter items are stored in the highest storage location pallet racks, with goods in heavier, smaller cases placed lower down.

The thousands of products that arrive at the depot each have a designated space – so the teams of pickers always know where to find the different SKUs.

Regulated items, such as cigarettes and spirits, are also subject to stringent security and tracking measures.

And because of the distribution centre’s carefully considered layout, the pickers can organise the trolleys for each retailer order in a logical fashion.

They navigate the aisles in a way that allows for heavier, bulkier items to be placed at the bottom of the trolleys, with lighter and smaller items put at the top.

Crucially – and arguably a unique selling point that makes CJ Lang attractive for store managers and owners – retailers can place orders for single items on many SKUs, rather than having to purchase an entire case.

This means retailers are not forced to reduce the price of items to sell them or, worse, face the cost of having to bin out-of-date stock.

Instead, they can, quite literally, cater to the demands of individual consumers in the communities they serve.

Bosses at CJ Lang also highlighted the advantages of being based in Scotland for Scottish retailers.

While many other symbol group stores face unpredictability as goods are transported from south of the border, the firm stressed that’s not the case for Spar Scotland retailers.

And, meeting the consumer desire for Scottish produce, about 50% of what comes in and out of the Dundee site is from manufacturers and suppliers based in Scotland.

The transportation of products is also highly organised – with goods coming in later in the day, then being sorted for storage or orders, before going out on the road to stores from the early hours onwards.

Staff in a transport hub make the most of technology for real-time monitoring of their lorries’ journeys, weather conditions and travel disruption such as accidents.

This enables CJ Lang to guarantee retailers time slots for when their orders will arrive, as well as alert drivers of the need to reroute if required.

The wholesaler says the result for consumers and retailers is that stock arrives at stores in perfect condition, with the precise number of items ordered and in a timely fashion.

And that, in turn, is good for CJ Lang and Spar Scotland’s business.

As chief executive Colin McLean said: “Our distribution centre and transportation are at the core of what we do. If we get that right, everything else should follow suit and be good for the business.”