In May, Vipin Patara took over from Mark Beckett as Managing Director of SOS Wholesale Limited.

SOS Wholesale is one of the UK’s largest wholesalers of foods and beverages, employing 120 staff from its 75,000 sq. ft warehouse and distribution centre in Derby and sales office in Barnsley.

Its product range extends across 4,500 lines, selling branded products nationally and a select amount of goods to a growing export market.

Vipin Patara tells Wholesale Manager the firm is constantly seeking to improve, looking at new products and markets to diversify and expand.

Congratulations on becoming MD of SOS Wholesale. Where have you worked before now and in what roles?

Thank you, I have been working very closely with Mark Beckett for the past 5 years to understand the values he has instilled in the business. I am very enthusiastic about my new role as MD at SOS Wholesale. My objectives are very much in-sync. I am going to continue building strong relationships with our customers, suppliers and all SOS Wholesale employees. I strongly believe that the business success is achieved by talented, diverse & motivated individuals. Likewise, I hope to set the stage for the culture of the organisation, which in turn nurtures growth and efficiency to develop a clear vision and strategic plan for SOS in conjunction with the board.

I have 28 years of experience in the Wholesale, FMCG, Food Service & Retail sector which has provided me with a strong industry background for my new role as MD.

My career began at Hyperama. Here, I was keen to learn the business model and worked progressively upwards for 10 years covering sales, purchasing and finance. I then moved onto to Asiana where I spent 13 years, my final job role being Head of UK Procurement. The culmination of a variety of roles within different sectors has enabled me to bring both in-depth knowledge and a valuable insight into the different channels we work in.

I believe that business success comes from understanding the whole business model and having the ability to work hands-on at all levels. On joining SOS Wholesale, I was tasked with Project Managing the implementation of new business software. Working physically to implement the software in all the departments to include warehousing gave me a unique opportunity to understand how each department worked and allowed me to implement efficiencies.

Briefly tell us about the history of SOS Wholesale. When was it formed and what is the company’s core business?

From humble beginnings Mark and Steven Beckett joined their dad in the family butcher business in 1980. With entrepreneurial spirit they encouraged diversification and, through market stalls and shops in Derbyshire they began selling groceries, cakes and confectionery. In 1996 the business moved into wholesale and continued to grow. In 2006 SOS Wholesale moved into our current premises at Stores Road.

SOS Wholesale’s core business is selling value, branded grocery and household products to a diverse customer base both in the UK and to a growing global market. SOS Wholesale has always worked on the ethos of “big enough to cope, small enough to care.”

What product categories does SOS supply?

That is a great question that I could talk about non-stop! SOS Wholesale’s product categories consist of a vast range of more than 5000 products. From groceries, confectionery, soft drinks, toiletries, to household, vaping and so much more. We also have a selection of products that are packed and sold under our own brand names. We listen to our customers’ requirements and have a team of people working behind the scenes to source new products that keep us market leaders in what’s trending both here and overseas. For our latest products watch this space.

How many product lines do you supply and how much space do you have in your distribution centre?

We have a 75,000 square foot warehouse based in Derby, ideally situated for national distribution. In line with increasing demand, we have built an additional loading bay and expanded our racking to provide storage space for 200 additional pallets.

We currently supply approximately 5000 skus but this is continually increasing as we constantly increase our range in line with our customers’ requirements.

Which product categories that you supply are in growth and which are more challenging?

In the wholesale sector, everything is constantly changing so part of being successful is being able to analyse and adapt based on the changing market climate. We are continuously reviewing consumer demand, shopping habits, seasonal trends and basket spends of consumers. By analysing this information, we aim to supply the required range at the right price for our independent retailers. Therefore, every listed category in SOS Wholesale is always in growth although seasonal fluctuations affect the rate of sales on certain lines.

The biggest challenge we face as wholesalers is the supply shortages from manufacturers and how we react to this in real time by ensuring we still fulfil retailers’ demands by providing the best alternative.

What promotional offers do you run?

We work with our suppliers on various promotions throughout the year and have a marketing and design team who work on seasonal offers using various media from digital marketing to our own in-house magazine. We run competitions for our customers and our sales teams provide customers with promotions for bulk buys and clearance stocks.

How has the wholesale industry changed in recent years?

The wholesale industry has changed with an increase of the bigger discounters and recently through Covid, the importance of independent stores within communities.

Consumers still have a budget for their weekly shop, but the cost of living has changed shopping habits as the customer is now looking harder at the value of the products they buy to get more for less.

Manufacturers have had challenges of increases in fuel and ingredients. Wholesalers like SOS Wholesale have adapted to working alongside manufacturers. This has resulted in demonstrating their value in being both flexible and efficient by moving manufacturers’ goods across the supply chain to the consumers within a price point.

Wholesalers now focus on providing the right product to the retailer at the right price in order for them to satisfy their consumer demand.

How digital is SOS as a business, and do you offer any IT support for your members e.g. ordering apps, online support, delivery tracking?

In this industry, it seems that digital expansion takes a back burner in comparison to other matters. However, this is a key factor that we are aiming to tap into further. Currently we offer members online support whereby all our customers can access their historic and financial data as well as their previous purchases. New Product recommendations are suggested to customers based on their habits via Web algorithms. We also offer electronic proof of delivery and paperless invoicing. We are constantly looking to understand fully how our retailers can benefit from a digital transformation that can work for them on a day-to-day basis and spark growth and innovation.

What new products have you introduced recently?

Whilst we are always looking at what is trending in the market, economic factors such as Covid and Brexit have impacted on what people buy. SOS Wholesale believes that both executing the new product to the market and offering a great value are key and we look to provide more for less at SOS Wholesale!

What are your plans to expand the company in the future?

I don’t want to give too much away but we are constantly looking to improve in all areas of the business. We are looking at new products and markets to diversify and expand onto new platforms including growth in the UK and export business.

Internally we aim to increase and strengthen the talent of our dedicated staff both new and existing. Overall, I am aiming to eliminate risk and improve operational excellence by automating further to improve productivity.

 

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