Booker is going all out to improve prices, choice and service as part of its recovery plan, new chief executive Charles Wilson told delegates at this year's Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) conference in Warwickshire.

Wilson, who returned to Booker last year following a period at Marks & Spencer, told the conference that when he took the helm the wholesaler was struggling with large debts, declining sales and zero profit. However, by paying back some of the debt and focusing on cash sales and product availability, he maintained that the company is now on the road to recovery. 

"Our availability is above 98.5% - that's the best it has been for five years," said Wilson. "We were putting too much energy into things that didn't matter, when what our customers want is choice, price and service."
Once these basics have been mastered, the key to future growth will be getting new products and services to market quickly, revealed Wilson. 

"I'm trying to get Booker to think more like Tesco," he explained. "Our traditional trading adavantages have been whittled away and we spend too much time looking at categories in decline. We have to get into new products and services." 

Wilson added that a recent switch from national to local suppliers of fruit and vegetables has more trebled the size of the range. It has also resulted in a reduction in food miles and produce being 30% cheaper and over a day fresher.