The Simply Fresh symbol group has had a wilder 2020 than most and that’s before Covid-19 enters the conversation.
O’Loughlin was appointed COO of Simply Fresh in July as part of a senior team reshuffle which saw Kash Khera move to the role of business development director.
This shift came as the business underwent significant changes including the trial of a Sainsbury’s supply model which is now being expanded upon with retailers being actively recruited.
When Simply Fresh came onto the market more than a decade ago, it was billed as a different offering for retailers and often labelled as a disruptor within convenience. O’Loughlin sees this moniker as a badge of honour even with the Sainsbury’s partnership.
“I still think that’s the case. We have the supply chain from Sainsbury’s but disrupter is a state of mind. It spurred us on to think we’re the little guys and are fighting upwards. It’s a tag I’m happy to wear and it’s a good place for Simply Fresh.”
In a highly-competitive retail sector, O’Loughlin believes the Simply Fresh has an offering that can compete, especially now with the Sainsbury’s tie-up.
“Our range is as good as anyone’s. We’ve got thousands of Sainsbury’s products that a retailer can bring into their range; six to seven chilled/ambient deliveries a week all in one truck which is a big thing for independent retailers and is extremely efficient.
”Every Day Low Pricing is our model and promotions SKUs are three-weekly. Our IT system is a big plus, it’s a push model which means the computer pushes the stock into stores but in our case, the retailer chooses the range and then controls the stock and has the ability to adjust it while still being plugged into Sainsbury’s.”
He says that this new style of model is sorely needed in the channel.
“Our goal is to provide a quality supply chain for independent retailers that is better than anything in the market at the moment and build a network of retailers who are able to deliver this model.
“Independent retailers have become complacent and thinking everything is okay. You have to do what is right for your business but also review it all the time. You need to look at your supply chain and decide if you’re providing the best one for your range and customers.”
”The forecourt sector is dependent on the wrong categories, it’s dependent on lines that are under attack like tobacco, sugar, alcohol, lottery, fuel and I believe as electric vehicle usage increases there are fewer reasons to go to forecourts.”
Forecourt sector under pressure
With his background in forecourt retailing, O’Loughlin is even tougher on that sector and warns that it needs to modernise or face extinction.
“Times are changing, it’s not just about feeding people in cars, it’s much more than that and UK forecourts aren’t even in the race. The forecourt sector is dependent on the wrong categories, it’s dependent on lines that are under attack like tobacco, sugar, alcohol, lottery, fuel and I believe as electric vehicle usage increases there are fewer reasons to go to forecourts, but what we can do is offer them better products with a better supply chain that will help change consumer perception of what can be purchased at a forecourt.
“Customers buy fuel once a week and if 20-30% of those customers stop going because they’re driving electric vehicles, retailers will struggle to replace them. Forecourts are not getting their fair share of the top up opportunity because their range and current supply chain doesn’t offer them the products to top up.”
He says that the Sainsbury’s supply model will help retailers reassess their offering. “The independent convenience stores suffer because they’re not on a level playing field with the multiples despite even being supplied by them, that’s because a lot of them don’t make their full range available to the independents. We can offer that level playing field thanks to Sainsbury’s - that’s a real game changer for the sector.”
Aside from Sainsbury’s partnership, he explains how the group has growth ambitions. “We want to build a nationwide network. Northern Ireland is a target market for us that we’d like to explore. We want to build a nationwide Sainsbury’s supplied Simply Fresh network.
“There are a lot of international opportunities as well. If Sainsbury’s can go to Australia then you can go anywhere in the world. I’d say the Republic of Ireland is a target market but it all depends on Brexit.”