One of wholesale's biggest characters is set to stand down after more than 35 years in the industry.

Today's Group MD Rodney Hunt is set to retire in March 2009, having run the Nisa-Today's wholesale arm since it began in 1987.

A particularly vocal champion of the independent sector, Hunt is held in high regard by wholesalers and retailers alike.

"Rodney is immensely popular throughout the grocery industry," said Nisa-Today's chief executive Neil Turton. "He manages to somehow accomplish the potentially difficult combination of being a very tough negotiator, with being a very popular man."

Hunt joined Nisa in 1982 working alongside the buying group's founders Dudley Ramsden and Peter Garvin and helped set up and run the group's Central Distribution arm.

He held the position of chairman of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors from 2002 to 2006. The Today's Group said it would start the search for Hunt's successor shortly.