• Frank Welkerling

Bromley Abbott meets Frank René Welkerling, CEO of Compass Supply Solutions.

First published in The Ship Supplier, Issue 91, 2021 and reproduced.

They say you should never expect anyone to do something if you are not prepared to demonstrate it yourself. One man who has embraced that philosophy completely is the Chief Executive Officer of Compass Supply Solutions, Frank René Welkerling.

As one does these days, I dialled him up on-line to find out how this global supplier and significant presence in the maritime sector had fared in recent times. The answer? Extremely well by the sound of things.

Relaxing in his new and very stylish open plan office Frank clearly leads from the front. A vivid example of this was his story of the 10,000 eggs that were needed on a major cruise ship but which, somehow, had been missed by a number of suppliers. Gleefully Frank told me he found the eggs in 24h and leapt into one of the Compass trucks himself and merrily drove down to the ship and made the delivery.

Frank is an Ex Executive Chef of Cunard Line and his heart is with Cruise Lines and the Global Travel Retail business. Result? Well, let’s just say the customer was very pleased and much more than eggs flowed from the Compass warehouse as a direct result of Frank’s initiative and enthusiasm. “It’s all about Quality & Service,” he commented. “Quality of service is just as important as quality of product. The dedication, passion, and disposition to serve as a good service provider you have to have in your genes. “These days we find customers are more than prepared to pay that little bit extra for a quality product and if you match that with unparalleled customer service and attention to their needs then success in your business is guaranteed” If you go every day 24/7/365 the extra mile for your clients” Compass bestride the cruise industry and list all the major players as customers.

They all seem to like Frank’s corporate style. For example, Disney, that quintessential American icon, loves to stock UK made products in its onboard shops – supplied and offered by Compass. Other titans like the World leaders in soft drinks - with whom a close relationship exists - have substantial supply contracts with the company for Global Travel Retail business.

A major part of the business is the creation and packing of bespoke very nice gift boxes which prove very popular with a variety of corporate clients from all continents during the whole year. Contents include miniatures of top drinks brands and much more. It’s not all maritime focused.

The World leading Supermarket brand with also a branch in Australia ordered crackers, various Christmas Calendar and the total supplied sold out in the shops in one day. Clearly Frank’s skill at what to stock and supply pays dividends away from the sea. With a positive eye on the future Frank relates how he used the quieter time of the pandemic lock-down to acquire brand new premises which is already HMRC approved and 5400 pallet locations well prepared for huge growing.

Handily situated just off the M27 motorway at Fareham, in Hampshire, UK, Compass’ premises extends to a total area of 65,000 sq. m of offices, warehouses, bonded stores and associated grounds. Virtually all his staff of 36 have returned to the site once restrictions were lifted by the British Government and the furlough support scheme came to an end. Although the volume of stores supplied to vessels was vastly reduced during the more stringent of the lockdown periods, Frank confirmed that with 24 cruise ships at anchor there was still a need to supply the 80 to 100 lay-up personnel remaining on board each one. Compass continued that supply role throughout.

One of several changes in what customers are asking for is products containing considerably less sugar and environment friendly products. With 20 brands of mixers in stock several serve that – what one might call – emerging market for healthier options all round. There is an air of adventure amongst the company’s customers. Frank told me that he is in touch with around 100 small distilleries, for example, throughout UK, Ireland and offering a change – sometimes a radical one – from the big brands of gin, whisky and other staples. Frank confirmed that craft spirits are selling very well with craft gin and rum a leader.

A significant number of containers of snacks, crisps etc. leave the company’s slick fulfilment centre every month destined for eager customers world-wide to Compass Supply Solutions Travel Retail clients. The trend for experimentation and adventure extends to chocolate where local, handmade offerings are proving to be ever more popular. “Quality with inspiration is definitely the trend,” commented Frank – and he is delighted to supply because the variety of products in the UK is inexhaustible when it comes to creative, history, very good, innovative, and new products. Not just chocolate and all kind of confectionery. Tea and Coffee, FMCG goods – the demise of which has often been reported – is another strong seller enjoyed by Compass’ global audience.

So, I asked Frank who else he supplies. “I’m delighted to tell you of our new customer a huge Ferry line in UK and Ireland. We also continue to supply the UN, military PX shops, airport Duty Free & cross border shops throughout Europe as well as the diplomatic market Global. “The spread of our Global Travel Retail markets and their diversity gives us security.”

Frank proudly told me that half his staff are women and the skills and attitude they bring to the business are very important and exemplary for the men in the team “A good balance is the recipe for our success”. All the staff were praised by Frank, and it was clear during our meeting that he is very appreciative of his staff and their loyalty and enthusiasm.

Drawing our meeting to a close I asked him to encapsulate the corporate ethos of Compass Supply Solutions. “Quality and Service” he said quick as a flash. “That is what underpins our good UK company.”

From my brief introduction to the sophisticated operation that is Compass it is clear this ethos has helped him significantly to survive the trying economic times of the pandemic and face the future secure in the knowledge their business model works.

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