Sourcing supplies from a purchasing consortium has its distinct advantages at the best of times, including bulk discounts and advice on tap on the best purchasing decisions. But in a fragile economic climate, a purchasing consortium can also provide the security of knowing that your pipeline of supplies won’t dry up, even if a supplier goes to the wall.
Sourcing supplies from a purchasing consortium has its distinct advantages at the best of times, including bulk discounts and advice on tap on the best purchasing decisions. But in a fragile economic climate, a purchasing consortium can also provide the security of knowing that your pipeline of supplies won’t dry up, even if a supplier goes to the wall. This at least provides a partial explanation for Beacon Purchasing’s relative success in Scotland. In the last year – despite or perhaps because of the economic downturn, Beacon – the largest purchasing consortium for the independent hospitality industry -- has harvested a number of new business wins. Here, Catering in Scotland looks at what has gone right for Beacon.
The Old Course Hotel in St Andrews and Castle Stuart Golf Links development in Inverness are two new jewels in the crown of Beacon Purchasing. Beacon is working in close partnership with The Old Course Hotel as this venerable Scottish institution seeks to consolidate its purchasing power and supply chain. ‘We’ve been meeting with Beacon on a regular basis since we became members six months ago,’ says David Townsend, Purchasing Manager of The Old Course Hotel. ‘Working with a purchasing consortium gives us more options to source what we need from different suppliers at the best price.’ Grant Sword is one of the partners involved in Castle Stuart Golf Links, the 18-hole golf resort overlooking the Moray Firth due to open its golf course and clubhouse on 13th July this year. The project scope includes 148 resort-ownership lodges and apartments, the first of which will be unveiled in 2010, after which a 70-bedroom luxury hotel and spa will be launched in 2012 to complete the current phase of development. Grant picked up the phone to Beacon’s Regional Manager for Scotland, Susan Young, almost as soon as the project commenced.
‘I’d known Susan and Beacon since I was Managing Director of Morton Hotels, so this is not the first time I’ve worked with them. The difference now is that with this being a greenfield site, everything has had to be built. This means that with the opening imminent, everything is coming together at once, we’re going a hundred miles an hour and timing and speed are of the essence. Here, Beacon has been sensational. They are acting like a de facto purchasing department for us. Through them, we’re able to make purchases of quality supplies very quickly,’ says Grant Sword.
To ease the buying process, Beacon even orchestrates ‘open days’ for suppliers and manufacturers to present their products to Grant and his team. Everything, from food and drink, linen, cutlery, crockery, furnishing supplies including paints and upholstery, and even utility suppliers are driven into Inverness by Beacon to be looked over and sampled where possible by Castle Stuart decision-makers.
‘It has taken enormous pressure off us in terms of management time too,’ says Grant. ‘We get to see different supplies and equipment in the comfort of our own environment. Beacon have also been extremely helpful in getting us quotes from different suppliers so we know we are getting the best products at the best price.’
Beacon is no stranger to the luxury end of the hospitality market and counts MacMillan Hotels, which includes the award-winning Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire, among its members. But in fact, the company’s reach in Scotland stretches far beyond this segment of the industry. Meallmore Limited, one of the fastest growing owners and operators of care homes with some 18 properties (including two new-build) across Scotland, is also a long-standing Beacon member. The consortium supplies the majority of the company’s food and drink supplies, but also many of its fixtures and fittings. Morag Waring, Hotel Services Manager at Meallmore, said, ‘I once tried to source 18 flat-screen televisions and no one could help me. I called Beacon and they were able to source them almost straight away. It helps when someone can negotiate the best prices for us too.’
Chris Durant, Beacon Director, says that the company’s success may be due in part to its wide network of both national and local suppliers, which helps to assure customers of consistent quality and delivery regardless of their geographical location, given the logistics involved in doing business in Scotland.
‘There is some distance between cities and towns in Scotland, but this is where Beacon’s excellent arrangement with suppliers and our distribution channels really helps. Using local suppliers also helps to control the carbon footprint, which more and more members are beginning to appreciate. Moreover, in the current economic climate, a lot of hospitality companies are seeing the value of pulling together their purchasing power to secure the best deals.’ He adds, ‘We like to see ourselves as strategic partners of both our members and suppliers, and if there’s one thing we all need to be today, it’s flexible. We don’t have a one-size fits all formula, and we always try to respond and adapt to our members’ needs.’