Sugro UK is a unique buying and marketing co-operative of over 80 independent wholesale members with full nationwide coverage, including offshore islands and Northern Ireland.

Often called the Sugro family, the group combines the buying power of its membership to negotiate the best product pricing and availability with its network of suppliers on members’ behalf.

Through its network of members, the group supplies over 16,000 retailers, utilising their dedicated field and telesales staff, with an extensive fleet of delivery drivers and vehicles.

Emma Senior, Sugro Managing Director tells Wholesale Manager what she wants to achieve in the role and how the wholesale industry has changed in recent years.

Where have you worked before and in what roles?

I have been in this role for 15 months. Prior to that I worked for Mondelez for 20 years on the supplier side. I served in a variety of roles there in finance, supply chain, field sales and front line sales, so a real mixture. I was in the old Cadbury business, then Kraft, then Mondelez, so there was a very different feel for each of them as things changed throughout those years.

What does your current role involve?

As an MD it encompasses everything in regard to running the company. There’s the trading element with the suppliers but that’s just one aspect of the role. It is looking after all of the team. We have got our own in-house IT team, our design team and finance. It is about managing all those people within our head office environment. Then it is about looking at the strategy, what we want to do with the business going forward, and it is about nurturing and building relationships, whether that be with our supplier network or our own membership and looking at new business opportunities. I have got teams under me that do an absolutely amazing job so a lot of it is overseeing those areas.

What are your goals for what you want to achieve in the role?

They are very similar to the goals I had this time last year. I’m still fairly new in the role so it’s about trying to understand our business and what our business can offer to the membership. Growth is an obvious goal, whether that comes from new membership, new categories with suppliers, new products or new initiatives. It’s really understanding where those opportunities sit. We are currently trying to follow those through and make sure we do an excellent job in every initiative we have. We have a number underway and we are trying to do things at their best, not just a light touch on things. It’s also about giving that continuity to the head office team. My immediate team are really important to me so it’s making sure I provide stability for that team.

How is Sugro performing as a business?

We are doing really well. We have had 14 years consecutive growth. We are up +9% year to date as a group and we are in growth against all our categories, which is great. Grocery is one of our newer categories and we are up 20% year on year. There are some really good positive numbers across all of the categories so that is really pleasing to see. You don’t want the growth to just be in one area while the others are suffering. We won the Advantage Survey this year. This is where suppliers score us against other buying groups, give their feedback and we were number one overall and number one in each of the categories. It is real kudos for us, it is based on performance for the last 12 months. We are really pleased suppliers are recognising us for everything we are trying to do as a business both for them and for our membership.

How would you describe Sugro for anyone who hasn’t heard of the business?

There are a number of buying groups across the UK. Sugro’s USP is that we are seen as a family. We are quite often called the Sugro family and our members certainly feel that way. That encompasses really understanding our members, understanding what they need, trying to get to the core of their businesses, not just our own, and ensuring any initiatives we have match their needs. There is no point in us bringing something into the group that isn’t relevant to our members. Our members genuinely look out for one another as well which is quite unique as a group. We are known for very strong incentives for our members. We have an annual convention each year and that means going further afield than some others will do. We thrive on that, it gives everybody an opportunity to build really good relationships while on those trips.

How many members does Sugro have?

We have just under 90 members at the moment.

Is there a target to grow the membership?

We have grown steadily over the years. We are trying to make sure we have a broad offering of members so we are not having all the same sort of members. We have brought in some more retail focused members of late, some more foodservice focused members. It’s not just having a list of 10 new members, we want to actually grow and we want to bring in new business so we need to look at the right new members for the group. That is probably more of a target than the actual volume of new members.

Is the geographical reach across the whole UK?

Yes, it is. We cover the length and breadth of GB and we have got some really strong retail members in Northern Ireland. We have got a good cross-section across the whole of the UK.

What does your retail club offer members?

That is enhanced promotions. In order for a member to participate, they need to have their own retail club. It is not open to every member, if a member was totally wholesale, they wouldn’t be able to participate. We run a promotional programme with 17 promotional periods. Within that we will have some enhanced retail club promotions. We are looking for that offer to be passed on to consumers. We provide POS for members to be able to highlight the promotion in their own stores.

Do you have an e-commerce site for your members?

Yes, this is one of our real strengths. We have a number of areas within the e-commerce platform. We have our own Sugro ordering system that enables our IT team to develop web solutions with our members. We also partner with That is a really good offering where our members can have their own app so they can have an ordering site built in conjunction with and ourselves. It can be used on the app or on desktop, enabling their customers to order directly from those members. We have a steady flow of members coming on board with that and even members who have said no in the past have come back every now and again to have a look at that. It’s a really good offering with a professional business like so that is working very well.

We have WhatsApp Business with, that can be WhatsApp from our members to their retailers but if they have got our app they can order directly from our WhatsApp. That is in its infancy but we are having quite a bit of interest in it, we are running trials at the moment on WhatsApp so hopefully that will be a really good tool for members. Suppliers can use the tool to talk about NPD, for example or a core range that is important to them. It works well for both member and supplier.

How many products does Sugro supply and what categories do you cover?

There are thousands of products. We started off as a confectionery buying group and have spread out into crisps and snacks, soft drinks, grocery and foodservice. We have been working with Unilever Foodservice, Heinz. We are branching out into household – we have got a new relationship with DCS to provide household products like bleaches. We are seeing quite a bit of growth through those new categories.

Are there any new products in the ranges you want to talk about?

No, we will always see great NPD from our confectionery suppliers and our soft drinks and crisps suppliers. We make sure we launch those with our members with excellence, highlighting those products that are coming through. There are too many to name. We are very active on LinkedIn and with the WhatsApp solution. We also launched a product called Drive Your Sales this year. That is an electronic leaflet which gives suppliers the opportunity to talk to our members but also their customers. That is where we will showcase NPD but we will also talk about the category. When times are tough, as they are now, it’s really important to talk to our members and make sure they are stocking the right range. They can’t stock everything, so it gives suppliers an opportunity to home in on the best sellers and what is important to them from a category perspective. Drive Your Sales really helps with that information flow.

How has the wholesale industry changed in recent years?

It has changed quite a lot. Covid was probably an instigator of that, it was a very difficult, challenging time for wholesalers. Covid showed how resilient the wholesale sector was. We saw many of our members, and wholesalers across the country, very much adapting their business. There have been a number of changes – it’s more about online, deliveries have become very important, thinking about messaging to consumers has become very important to them. Wholesalers are thinking about that range they offer so we are seeing them not just focusing on one category but starting to spread out into other categories. That has been quite common, it was starting to happen but Covid definitely enhanced that process and we have seen more of it since. It has shown how adaptable wholesale is as a sector, it is very quick to react. For many, this is their own business so they need that business to come through. They can’t just sit and rely on somebody else, they have got to make it work for them.

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

We are really strong in this area. Drive Your Sales is digital, as is WhatsApp and our app. Our IT team are on hand to support members, whether that is helping them with their own website or supporting them through and very much working in conjunction with them. We have done a really good job there and that is something we want to push more. We have partnered with TWC this year to have a sales out provider, we were one of the buying groups that hadn’t got that. That is in its building process, we are almost ready to launch and we are in that extraction of data process at the moment. That will be really exciting for next year because we will be able to fit in the missing jigsaw piece for suppliers by having Sugro data along with others so that has been key for us.


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