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United's sales are boosted as strategy hailed

UNITED Wholesale (Scotland) has hailed its strategy of giving its independent grocery customers access to improved credit facilities and product deals which allow them to compete with their larger rivals as it hiked turnover by nearly five per cent last year.

The company, which runs two cash and carry depots in Glasgow and directly supplies independent convenience stores, lifted sales to £212 million in the year ended December 31. United, owned by former Labour MP Mohammad Sarwar and family, saw pre-tax profits edge up to £2.08m.

The results underline the continuing growth of the business, which booked record profits of £2.06m on turnover of £202.5m in 2012.

Athif Sarwar, who runs the company with brother and managing director Asim, said: "We have been focusing a lot on giving the customers access to credit facilities, because as you know the banks in recent years have been very tight with the facilities they are giving out to the customers. One of the things we have done over the last two years has been to relax our terms and give customers access to credit facilities based on the level of business they have done with us for so many years, and the loyalty they have given us over the last 10, 15 years.

"The second reason our business has done well on turnover has been through our Day to Day franchise. We let the customers remain independent, but at the same time they have access to promotions and prices that let them compete with the larger chains."

The period saw United increase from 275 to 315 the stores it supplies under four different fascias - Day to Day, Day to Day Express, Day to Day Elite, and the recently launched Yousave brand.

Mr Sarwar said "at least 40 per cent" of the retailers it brought on board last year had come from other symbol groups, noting the firm's ambition to raise its customer base to 400 this year.

Asked why United is able to win business from other retail groups, he said its focus on the central belt of Scotland allows it deliver promotions which are more in tune with the demands of local customers. He contrasted this was the national promotions run by other groups.

United signalled its intention to broaden its geographical reach by acquiring new premises in Newbridge, Edinburgh, last year.

The property, which United will lease for three years before buying outright for a fixed price, will be used to build its presence in Dundee and Edinburgh. It plans to launch a cash and carry depot and delivered wholesale service at the site early next year.

United said it had seen administrative costs increase by 7.1 per cent last year. It cited costs linked to the recruitment of staff, switching bank, and to the purchase of the Newbridge site.

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