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January 27 2023

Innovation is key to attracting talent to wholesale – Mannion

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b2b.store CEO Rob Mannion says placing technological advancement at the heart of what the sector does could be great for recruitment

I still remember the moment I first experienced the power of wholesale. We’d arranged an event encouraging businesses from a wide range of sectors to consider creating an app to boost their online sales. And among those that attended, Bestway stood out.

I didn’t really know a lot about wholesale at that stage. Truth be told, back in 2014, wholesale wasn’t even an industry that I’d ever given much thought to – I’d worked at IBM for nearly eight years before setting up my own business, which worked with the likes of Bridgestone Tyres and Calor Gas.

In my time chatting with Bestway’s representative at our event, we discussed the role of a wholesaler, the challenges they faced and the sector at large. I could immediately see the size of the opportunity the sector represented.

Digital adoption was low and wholesale might not have been high profile, but the more I found out about it, the more I discovered a huge passion among the people in the sector and saw how they were driving their businesses forward. It was a hotbed for innovation and there was space to work closely with big businesses to develop game-changing products without the red tape found in other industries.

After launching the Bestway app – one of the most sophisticated in the grocery sector at the time, even above many of the multiples – I started to pivot my business towards doing more work in wholesale, until it was eventually our sole focus.

Why am I telling this story? Because it highlights the journey me and my business went on to become a wholesale specialist service provider and it’s a similar path many other people and organisations have been on to arrive here too.

There’s a lot of talk throughout the sector currently about the need to make wholesale more attractive to people, so we can hire and retain top talent and keep the industry moving forwards. And I believe the essence of achieving that is in what I discovered on that day with Bestway.

The ability to make real change, implement ideas quickly and work with big brands is sure to appeal to people, and we need to be shouting about that from the rooftops so the next generation of talent consider wholesale as a viable career option.

It’s all well and good banging that drum if nobody is listening, though. So we need to reaffirm that message by championing the great work that is being done and getting behind the best ideas to prove to people all the things we know about wholesale already.

My head is more in the tech realm, so to me that looks like championing industry successes – even when they’re not from within your own business – exploring new technologies, and being brave when it comes to trying these approaches.

There’s no doubt that digital is where the future of society is heading, so if we can make wholesale the home of innovation and ideas, it’s bound to have a positive impact on recruitment and retention. The challenge is for wholesalers to keep pushing the envelope and striving to be the first to market with launches, rather than letting other industries take the lead.

If we can achieve that goal, wholesale will start to grow in profile and the talent will follow. Harness that and we’ll soon be leading the way in more ways than one.