Palmer & Harvey is targeting significant growth in Northern Ireland, according to the company’s new sales and marketing director Jez Pegg. In the past year the company has invested in significant warehousing space and systems with which to target around 3,000 independents.

“The deal with Costcutter gives us the scope to expand in Northern Ireland, and we will continue to hone our offer accordingly,” said Pegg. “Service is key – there is strong competition here, so no room for complacency. We currently serve 125 Costcutter stores and around 300 independents, so there is a lot of scope to expand.”

The initial problems which hit the changeover from Nisa to Palmer & Harvey in spring have largely been resolved according to Melvyn Moutray, proprietor of Moutray’s, a long-established family business in Northern Ireland, which has been with Costcutter for 20 years, currently on its four sites - two Texaco-branded forecourts and two standalone c-stores.

“It’s true the changeover from Nisa to Palmer and Harvey wasn’t so good but we expected that,” he said. “There was more disruption than we thought in the early days but we stayed loyal. It has improved now, so we’re back on track. The Costcutter model suits us so there is no need to change. Plus the range has changed and there’s more flexibility.

“We used to have one delivery a week, but we’re now getting two, which has reduced our out-of-stocks; plus we’re able to keep store stock lower. We don’t get so many promotions pushing products people don’t really want. Now Costcutter are asking us to tell them what our customers want.

“The Independent range in particular has been very good – with a lot of repeat purchase. The quality is good and so is the sales margin. We’re planning to run an ‘Independent’ tasting day. Shoppers are driven by deals, but if you don’t have them they’re not interested.”