A group of retailer members of the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) visited New Covent Garden (NCGM) on October 18th, toured the site and met some of the main players at the UK’s largest and oldest wholesale market.
The independent retailers were taken around the site by Jo Breare, General Manager, and Sarah Calcutt, Board Member, of Covent Garden Market Authority. They explained the role of CGMA, the history of the site and the intricacies of an ongoing redevelopment programme that will deliver the UK’s newest wholesale market facility by early 2027.
The group experienced Buyers Walk, the famous area where the market’s wholesalers ply their trade, then were given a look round Harwoods of London by its owner Jim Dew, who has relocated this month into one of the brand new units that represent the latest stage of the redevelopment.
Gary Marshall, Chair, and Jason Tanner, Vice Chair, of Covent Garden Tenants Association, talked to the ACS group about market life and the continuing importance of NCGM to the independent retail trade. Marshall, who owns Bevington Salads, said “good service, continuity and quality” are the hallmarks of the market and that this was brought into sharp focus during the pandemic, when other parts of the supply chain struggled.
“When you come here, you don’t just get the crème de la crème of product – you get passion, knowledge and belief in the fruit and vegetable business. You work with people who really know what they’re talking about,” he said. “The service level is so high that it can be easy to take it for granted, but it got noticed again during the lockdowns. We become your eyes and ears – that is instilled as an ethos across this market.”
Tanner is chairman of The Menu Partners, which supplies retail and catering customers nationwide and overseas. “More groups have come back to the independent wholesalers and catering distributors in the last two years," he said. "We’re not day one for day three, a lot of the time we’re taking orders up to midnight that get delivered the next morning and our competitors can’t compete with that.”
And Marshall concluded by saying the market is as buys as ever. “This market has a very bright future – we continue to be a force to be reckoned with. Whatever fresh produce you want, we’re the boys and girls to get it for you,” he said.