AF Blakemore - Wholesaler

Brief

AF Blakemore is a large, privately-owned, retail convenience & wholesale company based across the West Midlands & South Wales. Their tobacco category has been declining in line with the wider market and a brief was given to recruit a tobacco specialist on an initial 6-month contract who could address the declining sales by securing incremental income directly from suppliers and introduce new product lines to improve sales performance.

Challenges

As well as a declining sales market, the majority of buying professionals in this category do not wish to remain here. The tobacco category at AF Blakemore has been under-developed with little innovation in this space through vaping & e-cigarettes. The company wished from someone to be based out of their Talbot Green depot in South Wales, which has a very small catchment area for buyers. The company’s hiring process is relatively long due to the number of stakeholders required to be engaged across the group business in various locations. Candidates have been lost through previous processes because of this.

Approach

It was decided that an ex-tobacco industry professional with ‘insider knowledge’ of the tobacco companies and their respective strategies would be more suitable as they would be able to leverage their own relationships within these organisations as well. A market mapping exercise was undertaken together with extensive networking through our retail network, asking for referrals to tobacco executives they had previously dealt with. A former brand & marketing manager from one of these tobacco companies was identified and ultimately selected because of his depth of understanding across tobacco products, having previously implemented these same strategies to the retailers. The process took 1 week from brief to present candidates for interview and a further 5 weeks from 1st interview to final interview. Communication was key to ensuring the candidate remained engaged in the process In his first 4 months, he has already secured £150k in cash income from a vaping supplier and has launched a new product line which is projected to generate in excess of £2million in profits in the next 12 months. Whilst his contract is still ongoing, the intention is to secure his services on a permanent basis for him to continue to manage the tobacco category.