The owner of Swanwick Catering Equipment, which is this week holding an online auction to shift 3,000 items of stock that it no longer needs, has spoken in detail about its transition from traditional kitchen house to overseas exporter.
Swanwick’s 16,000-square foot showroom in Cheltenham used to be a hub for local operators to source commercial kitchen tools and light equipment, but the company has gradually moved away from that side of the business following the proliferation of internet resellers and mail order catalogues, and increased competition from cheaper European brands.
Gordon Swanwick, who has worked in the industry for more than 40 years, told Catering Insight that the company shifted its attention to supplying overseas markets some time ago, but only recently decided to empty its showroom for good.
“The stock has been sitting here and I have done nothing about it for 20 years, so we just decided to get rid of it all. The auctioneer that is here today has done quite a good job in a few hours and hopefully by May or sometime like that we will be ready to sell the freehold of this place because we don’t need it anymore,” he said.
Swanwick insists the company shifted its focus the moment it saw margins getting squeezed by internet sales and cheap imports flooding the market.
“We made the change because we saw this coming. We have an export business that we have developed that doesn’t involve us in any of this stuff now. It is a different world altogether. You have no problems with exporting — as soon as it has gone through the waterguard that is the end of it, you never hear another word about it.”
The company will now look to scale up its electronic trading arm, 247FoodService.com, which specialises in supplying US catering equipment non-European destinations, such as Africa and the Middle East. Swanwick said the company’s strategy is to be “reactive not proactive”, which it does by tracking the bid boards and tender requests of major corporations and bodies.
“Watch the progress of this company through the year and you will see 247FoodSerice become a giant amongst the minnows — it is going to be big,” he insists.
Swanwick says the focus on export sales means the company can operate on a leaner scale and without the overheads it has had in the past, even to the extent that it doesn’t really need to utilise the warehouse it owns.
“If we need to do any packing we can get people in Felixstowe and Heathrow to do it for us. The main thing is the organisational ability, which we pride ourselves on and which we are able to do, because if we get a 70 item order or something like that then that’s where the expertise comes in — you have got to have a labelling system and shipper that can receive it all, understand it, charge a fee for it. That is a lot cheaper than the cost of warehousing it, labelling it and sending it on.”
Swanwick’s equipment auction, which takes place in three stages today, tomorrow and 21st March, is being managed by specialist auction house Pro Auction.