Conviviality "not deal hungry", insists Hunter

Conviviality has quadrupled its turnoverin four years after buying Matthew Clark, Bibendum PLB and Wine Rack, but chief executive Diana Hunter insists it is not “deal hungry”.

Hunter joined Bargain Booze in 2013 after setting up Little Waitrose and recognised its potential to wholesale not just to franchisees but to the entire trade.

She immediately rebranded it Conviviality and led it through a successful IPO, before swelling the retail estate by snapping up Wine Rack, Rhythm & Booze and GT Retail.

It has also purchased heavyweight suppliers Matthew Clark and Bibendum PLB, as well as events company Peppermint, and turnover now stands at more than £1.4 billion.

Hunter told DRN: “We have very purposefully built a business where the whole is stronger than the component parts.

“There are no obvious gaps right now. We have worked hard to build strong foundations, to ensure the business is integrated and has a really strong base and a clear sense of where its direction of travel is. I am really comfortable with where we are.

“Each area of the business has got growth potential, organic growth potential, and they will work hard to ensure they realise their potential.

“If something comes along which makes sense and is complementary to the business and benefits our people, our customers and our investors, we will look at it, but it doesn’t mean we are deal hungry.”

She praised the entrepreneurial spirit and deep talent pool that exists within the group and said its staff can enjoy a broad and varied career without ever leaving.

Hunter also feels Conviviality is uniquely placed in its knowledge of consumer purchasing habits within beers, wines and spirits.

“Matthew Clark had a huge reputation as a composite wholesaler, with significant strength in spirits,” she said. “It had strength in wines but it was not as strong as Bibendum PLB. Put the two together and you get the best of both worlds. Because we have the best buying team in the country we can tailorour ranges to suit our customers’ needs.

“Now that we pretty muchserve 25,000 outlets in the on-trade, 700 off-trade and 400 independents, and multiples, festivals and events, you can understand consumer drinking choices by format, location and venue, across the country.

“When you have that under your umbrella, coupled with over 10,000 SKUs of alcohol, you move from being a wholesaler to a wholesaler, distributor and solution provider to your customers. You can give them the advice they need.”

If any Bargain Booze franchisees are worried that their concerns feel lost amid the hubbub of this vast group and the need to appease the City, Hunter said they should call her and she will visit them in a bid to allay their fears. “I go and visit them,” she said. “I say, sit down and talk to me about what’s going on. They all have my number and I will answer. I don’t have an office. I make sure I get out and see everyone. I listen, because a key part of what we do is listening to feedback and improving.

“Franchisees are in a significantly better position than they were four years ago. “They will still benefit from better management information and more sophisticated systems and we are working with them to do that.”

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