The Federation of Wholesale Distributors has expanded its senior management team as it gears up to “better represent” the needs of delivered wholesale and foodservice members.

The organisation has appointed journalist James Bielby to the new position of deputy director general, fuelling speculation that Bielby, currently editor of Retail Express, is being lined up to replace director general John Murphy.

Murphy is due to reveal his retirement plans in the next few months. “The succession will be an issue at some point,” he said. “So it will be good to have a potential candidate in place.”

One industry source told The Grocer he expected Murphy to retire in April, but Murphy dismissed this, suggesting he would remain with the organisation for a longer period.

Bielby would bring a new dimension to the organisation, claimed FWD chairman Francis Ball. “We are very pleased with the appointment,” he said. “He’s a bright man with a great intellect and knows the industry well. He’s young and I expect he’ll show imagination in taking the industry forward.”

One of the biggest challenges for the FWD was to embrace its foodservice and delivered wholesale members, said Ball. “Simply because of circumstances, some of the main issues we have been dealing with, such as duty fraud and tobacco legislation, have been bigger issues for the cash & carry sector,” he explained. “But when you consider there are 350,000 independent caterers in the UK and 50,000 independent retailers, obviously we have to be looking to do more for this sector.”

On the crucial issue of duty fraud, Ball said Murphy would continue to lead industry efforts to curb the problem.

However, one wholesale expert questioned Bielby’s experience and expertise.

“While Retail Express covers the independent retailer sector, it is not primarily focused on the wholesale sector and the extremely diverse nature of wholesaling,” he said.

Bielby will take up the post on 2 March, reporting initially to Murphy.