Unitas harnesses the collective scale and strength of the group to negotiate the strongest trading terms, advertising agreements and the most competitive promotions for its wholesale members.

Tracey Redfearn, Head of Marketing and Communications, Unitas Wholesale talks to Wholesale Manager.

How many members do you have and what is their combined turnover?

We have almost 150 members with a combined buying power of £8.5bn – that makes us the largest wholesale group by some distance, and collectively our members’ turnover is more than any stand-alone wholesaler. Our message to suppliers is that they can reach around 180,000 retail, foodservice and on-trade outlets through the Unitas group and generate millions of consumer interactions with their brands. Our members’ support centre gives our supplier partners a single point of contact.

What benefits do you offer members?

Everything we do is led by our members. As shareholders in Unitas, they benefit financially from the group’s success, which is founded on our unrivalled scale. Being part of the largest player in the market when setting terms with suppliers means our members can offer their customers the best possible prices to compete with both multiples and discounters, as well as access a range to suit every shelf or menu. We back that up with an incredible promotional calendar and through the line marketing support. We also help wholesalers cut their operating costs, whether that’s by using their combined strength to get fantastic rates on consumables like energy, merchant cards and packaging, or optimising their supply chain and financial transactions.

Our trading team works closely with suppliers on terms and promotional programmes helping them understand the massive opportunities in wholesale; we have the marketing and merchandising skills to make members’ promotional activity really stand out with their customers and consumers; and we have our Commercial and Finance teams providing speedy payments and support which would cost wholesalers a fortune to access individually.

What makes your group unique?

Unlike other wholesale groups, Unitas is owned by its members who are shareholders. They are at the heart of everything we do. Our vision, our strategy and the service we provide are all developed from listening to the needs of independent wholesalers. They tell us they want a strong value proposition, supply chain efficiency, help achieving their sustainability goals, and access to the cost saving benefits of our central services. So that’s what we plan to give them over the year ahead.

Do you have an own brand range? How many products are in the range? Do you have any new extensions to the range at the moment?

It is really important to us that we provide our members with a strong product range that meets their needs on both value and quality. We are currently rolling out the new Local Living Own Brand to do just that. We’ve had some great member and consumer feedback on the products that we’ve launched to date and the sales are very encouraging.

We’re going through a transition phase with nearly 100 Lifestyle SKUs already moved into Local Living, and we’ll be doubling the total range this year, backed by a six-figure marketing investment. It’s a significant part of our strategy going forward and it will continue to grow.

Do you run promotions? What kind of promotional offers do you have?

We have legendary promotions! Seventeen three-week offers over the year, that’s over 4,000 individually-crafted deals to keep shoppers flowing into independents. Our programmes are built around key events in the calendar, and they are backed with huge support and innovation from suppliers and publicised through depot, store, print and online materials, aimed at both customers and consumers.

Do you provide advice and guidance for wholesalers about their core range and NPD?

Not only wholesalers – we provide retailers with the tools they need for their specific business, via our Plan for Profit initiative. A strong core range is the key, and we build our recommendations on industry-leading independent data and insight. We publish digital and print magazines and category guides to keep our members’ customers up to date with consumer trends, legislation and of course suppliers’ new offers.

Do you run events for members?

Part of our role is to bring suppliers and wholesalers together not only to trade, but to share knowledge and build relationships. We’ve just had our biggest and most successful trade show ever, and this year’s programme also involves meet-the-member days and one of the wholesale sector’s must-attend events, the Unitas conference in Vilamoura, Portugal in September.

What news do you have to share with us?

Our unparalleled scale has enabled Unitas to grow the income passed to members by 35% since its formation in 2019, with a 17% increase in 2023 alone. Last year saw value and volume increases in the retail, foodservice and on trade channels, and market-beating growth in nearly every category. It’s been an incredible five years and this is just the start.




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