The wholesale sector must bring out its heavy guns if it is to defend its share of the £18bn c-store sector against the incursions being made by major multiples. Director general Alan Toft warned delegates at the Federation of Wholesale Distributors' annual conference that the marketplace was an "inferno". He said: "We are at war. My fear is that we are underestimating the pace of the offensive being waged against us by our multiple competitors." Toft said it was essential that suppliers saw wholesalers as a priority for business in the convenience and independent sectors. And he claimed price and service were the best "weapons" wholesalers had with which to fight off the attacks. On a brighter note, FWD president Steve Parfett said the c-store formats being developed by the supermarket chains ­ and their attempts to supply independent stores ­ gave wholesalers a "golden opportunity" to embrace change and compete effectively. "Wholesalers must learn to fulfil their customer needs in the same way as the multiples," said Parfett. One way of achieving that was by offering retailers extra services such as those offered by his C&C group ­ insurance, shopfitting and business development. And Toft stressed the Take Home Blueprint initiative and Everyday Impulse would allow wholesalers and their customers to differentiate themselves from the multiples. * The only way to lobby the government effectively is by abandoning political correctness and being "passionate". Toft said the wholesale sector's battle to persuade the government to drop plans for date marked cigarette packs showed how inter-company rivalries could be abandoned for effective lobbying. "I am not terribly interested in being politically correct, but I am very interested in being politically effective," he said. "Our wholesale effort meant we were recognised by government as the crucial mechanism in the tobacco market." The Government wanted more than "mere" research, he said. "It wants the realities, as well as actual figures ­ and we delivered them." {{NEWS }}