Fifth-generation wholesaler JW Filshill marks new phase in its history as it relocates to a purpose-built distribution centre near Glasgow Airport

Date Posted: 31 Mar, 2023

JW FILSHILL, one of Scotland’s oldest independent food and drink wholesalers, has completed its relocation from Hillington to its purpose-built distribution centre at Westway Park near Glasgow Airport.

The phased move kickstarts an exciting period of growth for the fifth-generation family business that supplies KeyStore convenience stores across Scotland and the north of England plus national accounts including the Scottish Prison Service. It also has 1,600 independent customers.

Filshill, which last year ramped up investment ahead of its move to its new distribution centre with the acquisition of the independent Iain Hill Ltd wholesale business, has relocated its distribution centre and head office in order to future-proof the business.

Simon Hannah, Filshill’s chief executive officer, said that the new 120,400 sq ft depot at Westway Park will allow the wholesaler to increase its operational capacity and open more stores in Scotland and the north of England, from Wick in the far north to Doncaster in south Yorkshire.

“Operating out of these bespoke premises, which have been designed to our exact specification as part of our 10-year growth strategy, will improve our efficiency and productivity as we invest in the long-term success of the company, protect future revenue streams and increase customer satisfaction,” he said.

“We are an award-winning wholesaler with ambitious growth plans and our new distribution centre puts us in an ideal position to achieve our ambitions, expand the KeyStore estate, and work in partnership with our customers and suppliers for mutual benefit.”

Mr Hannah said that the acquisition of Iain Hill, a wholesaler with a strong foothold in soft drinks, confectionery, snacks and other impulse products, had bolstered Filshill’s modern fleet of vehicles as well as strengthening its pool of experienced staff.

“While we are disappointed that the pandemic and unforeseen planning issues delayed our move to Westway Park, we are delighted to now be fully operational as a business from what is one of the most modern and efficient food and drink distribution depots in the UK.

“Westway Park is the culmination of considerable planning to create the infrastructure that will enable us to recognise our ambitions and we will use the facility to drive unrivalled operational efficiency and promote the keenest prices as we aspire to become the most frictionless wholesaler in Scotland for our customers and suppliers to do business with.

“Incorporating the high-level skills of our people across the business and the most up-to-date technology and equipment, Westway Park marks the start of a new phase of a journey for the Filshill family that started in Paisley in 1875.”

The 16-metre-high warehouse – which has 211 solar panels covering 400 sqm of roof space – has 12 loading docks and an innovative four-floor pick tower which can hold approximately 1,520 pallets and, in addition, standard storage racking with capacity to hold 8,650 pallets. Gravity-fed live racking benefits from a semi-automated shuttle system which holds 1,155 pallets of Filshill’s fastest-selling products, generating significant operational efficiency.

Filshill, meanwhile, has developed the new distribution centre in adherence to its long-established strategy around benchmarking its carbon footprint, identifying areas where it can positively influence a reduction in its carbon impact and work towards a net-zero emissions position.

In the last financial year, driven by Filshill’s environmental team, the company saw a reduction of 9% in its intensity ratio measure of carbon per case delivered. The new premises provide electric vehicle charging points and a wildflower garden is being created. Beehives are also being put in place.

The distribution centre has also been designed with the comfort of staff in mind with internal office accommodation carefully created to make the most of natural light and provide colleagues with a comfortable working environment that will help boost both productivity and mental health.

Filshill’s 10-year strategy focuses heavily on engagement with its workforce on health and wellbeing, particularly with regard to mental health. “This remains at the heart of our strategy and we recognise that as a responsible employer we need to do this not only for our employees and their families but also because of the positive impact it has on our business and our customers.

“Our safety-first culture is a cornerstone of everything we do and our workforce retention and ability to recruit has been positively impacted by these initiatives. The new working environment at Westway will further cement this commitment.”

Filshill saw turnover increase to £200 million – up 4.4% from £191 million – in the year ending January 31, 2022. Operating profits increased from £2.3 million to £2.7 million while it recorded gross profit of £17 million with net assets growing to £17.1 million compared to £15.2 million the previous year, an increase of 12.6%.