Business handshake

Given the resilience and outperformance of convenience, most recently recognised by Sathnam Sanghera in the Times on 20 June, it is unsurprising that suppliers are recognising anew the importance and potential of the sector and its supply chain. Most recently this has been among wine suppliers (Off Licence News, 13 June) and by Martin Glenn of United Biscuits (The Grocer, 24 May).

In some instances, this recognition is long overdue with a previous dogged reliance on the one-basket model of the big four irrespective of the risks and lack of ambition that entailed.

It is therefore rewarding for FWD supporters that its focus on key messages, admirably demonstrated at last week’s clearly focused annual conference, has paid off with our commitment to assisting suppliers in breaking down one of the barriers to doing business with us: a perception of complexity.

Last year, we hosted a highly successful immersion day for board executives of suppliers to encourage ‘top-to-top’ contacts and knowledge, and followed that up this month with the first in a series of Introduction to Wholesale events for ambitious up-and-coming young suppler delegates, held at Bestway Luton. Delegates from 16 companies participated in the day, hosted by FWD chairman Martin Williams and David Gilroy of Bestway, and there is a long waiting list of suppliers wishing to attend future sessions.

“The importance of the wholesale sector was one of the key lessons”

The day included a depot tour showcasing all aspects of wholesale operations, background to the FWD’s role from CEO James Bielby, an overview of the opportunities for the sector from research company Him! and a case study in success within independents from Simon Gray, MD of soft drinks suppler Boost. The importance of the wholesale sector as a distinct market, and the different needs of various wholesale customers were key lessons.

Feedback from the event has been exceptional and is a clear endorsement of the FWD Council’s strategy of concentrating on three clear priorities - promoting the sector, legislative vigilance and lobbying, and facilitating co-operation on non-competing areas.

I was delighted that UB were present and hope that we see wine suppliers at the next event.

Thanks and congratulations are due to the small FWD team who put together an outstanding event.

PS: I see my predictions about beer pricing at the multiples during the World Cup (in my Talking Shop on 24 May) have been more than borne out by events as analysed by The Grocer. Responsible retailing from the big four - I don’t think so.