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Drinks wholesale was a bit different back in 2002.
Dennis, the now Chairman, started the business in February 2002 without a customer but with 30 years of industry experience and a belief that customer service was still important in a rapidly changing industry.
His career in the trade started with a Stratford upon Avon-based soft drinks manufacturer and distributor as a lorry driver in the early 1970s. He moved through the ranks, ultimately managing a large fleet of vehicles and a team of drivers delivering soft drinks nationally. Dennis left the company and started his own soft drinks distribution business, which was ultimately acquired by a small drinks wholesale company with big ambitions, then known as The Beer Seller. That company eventually morphed into Waverley TBS. During his time with both businesses, he managed depots, sales teams, and fleet transport operations.
As time went on and with the closure of the local Waverley depot, Dennis quickly realised that a gap existed in the area to provide an excellent service with an exciting range of composite drinks focused on cask ale. We Initially operated from a small, shared warehouse in the heart of Stratford upon Avon, with Dennis in sales, Pam, his wife, running the office and a delivery driver. After 12 months of growing the company Richard, his son and now Managing Director, joined the business with a career in retail management behind him and the shared aim to grow the business by giving excellent customer service and with an exciting and growing product range.
In June of 2004, we moved into our first 6000 sq ft warehouse just outside Stratford upon Avon in the village of Haselor. By this point, Inn Express was running two 3.5t vans and employed ten staff members.
Later that year Graham Lawton joined the business as Sales Director from Bablake Wines. Graham brought with him huge FMCG and wholesale experience; on the back of this and with an expanded sales team, the business and, indeed, its growth moved from strength to strength. Double-digit growth and reputational gain had always been a constant until the credit crunch in 2008 took hold. At this point, the decision was taken to offer premium options in each product category of the business and restructure the sales team. Andrew Lawton and later John Lewis joined the sales team, both from the national brewer and FMCG backgrounds, to help move Inn Express in a new direction. This paid huge dividends, leading us to be at the forefront of the craft beer market locally, offering an ever-increasing range of artisan and niche spirits as well as a rapidly developing wine range, a raft of soft drinks from small distributors all designed to complement the ever-changing cask and keg offering.
Twenty-one years on, we now operate from 28,000 sq ft of warehouse space, including our new buffer depot, which has been added to ensure we can carry sufficient stock for our customer’s needs. We employ circa 120 staff members, including a sales team of 12, and operate in an 85-mile radius of our depot in Haselor. We currently run a fleet of 21 fully livered vehicles, with fourteen trucks and seven vans delivering to our customers, with two standard delivery days per week and no minimum order.