Unitas Wholesale’s Member Development Management (MDM) Team works to ensure members are maximising their earning through the group.

The team’s responsibilities include boosting sales to enhance overrides, fostering the growth of Unitas own brands and supporting members with bringing operational costs down

MDM also provides advice and direction to wholesale members to achieve maximum benefits, cost savings, and profitability.

Stephen Cheetham, Member Development Controller, Rob Bourne, Member Development Manager – North Region and Mitesh Dhokia, Member Development Manager – South Region tell Wholesale Manager what attracted them to their roles at Unitas and what their roles involve.

Where have you worked before and in what roles?

SC: I have been working in the independent channel for more than 30 years, from the family business to owning my own stores, being part of the wholesaler to the support network that is a wholesale buying group. I have always worked closely with independent retailers and wholesalers, including roles at Nisa Retail, AF Blakemore in the wholesale and foodservice divisions, Landmark Wholesale and the Today’s Group. My roles in later years have been focused on supporting sales and development teams to ensure that both retailer and wholesaler are maximising profitability.

RB: My previous role was at AF Blakemore. This included the dedicated responsibility of independent SPAR stores, developing new business relationships and leading on several substantial contracts within the wholesale division. Before this, I was in the world of contract catering, working with industry leaders such as Sodexo, ISS and Compass.

MD: I previously worked at Ethnic Brand Marketing Ltd as a BDM, managing a portfolio of own label soft drinks and global alcohol agency brands. I have over 18 years’ experience in account management in FMCG, including 13 years at CCEP as a National Account Executive across multiple retail and wholesale roles.

What attracted you to the role at Unitas?

SC: I had been aware of the Unitas business for a long time and watched in admiration its evolution post the Today’s and Landmark merger. Speaking to several wholesalers, I understood that the channel was doing exceptionally well overall, and that Unitas’ significant success was down to investing heavily in the business and the level of dedication it offers all members. It struck me as the best place to support wholesalers in making the most of all the growth opportunities that this channel is offering right now.

RB: I was really excited about the prospect of interacting with and engaging industry leaders across all channels, whilst building on key relationships with market leading suppliers in all categories. Our member partners represent some of the best and largest wholesalers across all sectors and I love working with them to drive growth in the channel.

MD: I felt this position would be a great challenge for myself and one where I would be able to make a great impact for both Unitas and its members. I am super excited to be working alongside some of the most diverse independent wholesale businesses across the country. As well as developing and implementing fantastic Unitas initiatives that are driving real profitable growth for our members.

What does your new role involve?

SC: My role is dual faceted, firstly I am responsible for the Member Development Managers, Rob and Mitesh where our role is to ensure our members are fully engaged with the Group’s activities, that they are aware of all the support we are able to provide and to ensure our members are maximising their earning through Unitas. Secondly, I am also responsible for the Retail Development Managers. This team of retail experts supports our members who operate retail focused symbol groups, such as Todays’, Lifestyle Express, Day Today, Go Local and Key Store. Here through our “Plan for Profit” retail scheme we are supporting the members and their retailers to ensure they are up to date on the latest category management insights, range and planogram support, promotional execution and store operation excellence. My role has a national reach across the UK and this cross-team approach allows me to ensure that member and Unitas strategies are aligned, make sure that the teams are supporting members and that they are maximising the full benefits of their membership within Unitas.

RB: I am focused on optimising the Unitas membership for every member within the northern region. This includes a broad remit of responsibilities, but the key areas are boosting sales to enhance overrides, fostering the growth of Unitas own brands and supporting members with bringing operational costs down.

MD: Providing advice and direction to wholesale members to achieve maximum benefits, cost savings, and profitability. Ensuring member satisfaction and beneficial returns from Unitas membership.

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

SC: I will be strengthening my knowledge of all areas of the Unitas business, so that I can be proactive in delivering tailored advice and meeting all needs. I will continue meeting members to get a better understanding of their individual businesses and any areas they need support. Overall, I want to ensure that all our members are maximising the benefits of being part of the UK’s biggest and best buying group.

RB: I want to meet every Unitas member in person before April next year, to build personal connections and deliver tailored support. I will also be working towards deeper collaboration, enhancing overall net benefits and outcomes for each of my members utilising Unitas’ initiatives.

MD: I’ll be focusing on establishing a structured contact strategy so that I can build relationships between central office and wholesale members, implementing group strategies, policies, initiatives, and training. I also want to get a deeper understanding of current memberships and benefit status to identify areas of growth, utilising my experience across the wholesale industry.

Are there plans to expand the membership of Unitas?

SC: Our focus is on delivering the best possible benefits for our current 155 members, but we are always open to discussions with new prospects that could add value and be a good fit for the Unitas group but our priority is our existing membership and maximising their returns.

How many products does Unitas have in its own brand ranges and what categories do they cover?

SC: There are some really exciting times ahead for Unitas, as we are currently overhauling the own label Lifestyle range with a full rebrand. “Local Living” will be rolling out over the coming months, with expectations of a full and comprehensive range of essentials available by the end of H1 2024. This refreshed proposition will allow members and retailers to deliver on consumer demand for affordable but quality products across all key categories. Look out for updates at the upcoming Unitas tradeshow in March 2024.

What support services does Unitas provide for wholesaler members?

SC: Unitas really is a one stop shop for wholesalers, across their retail, foodservice and on-trade business. Whichever channel you are operating in, Unitas is the place to support your business to grow profitably for the future. We are well equipped to support our members to deliver growth, reducing operational costs, and futureproofing their business with things like IT and systems support. With the buying power of 155 members, we can negotiate competitive trading terms and promotions across all sectors, but our members also benefit from additional marketing support that run throughout the year in all channels, easily tailored to meet their individual needs based on location or time of year. We also have a jam-packed calendar of events, which allows members and suppliers to strengthen connections and build relationships that are valuable for both sides. This includes our tradeshow in Liverpool, Foodservice and On Trade Meet the Members events and our annual overseas conference.


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