Captain Vigilante

TURNAROUND. Chief executive Charles Wilson’s achievement in winning the prestigious champion European Company Turnaround title for New Booker has accurately and generously been acknowledged by the boss as due to the hard work and commitment of his managers and staff.

From the disaster inherited from the Big Food Group, the turnaround has been the talk of the town, especially the supplier community.

Retailers don’t need to talk. They vote with their feet – hence the turnaround.

Old timers say that wholesaling is a simple straightforward mechanism. They are right. Failure has too often been snatched from the jaws of profit. Keep it simple, stock what the consumer wants, and you’ll win is the theme of New Booker.

TURNAROUND 2. The chattering classes with links to Irthlingborough Road are saying that Bill Grimsey has been one of the closest observers of the remarkable turnaround masterminded in Equity House.

The chief of The Big Food Group, now defunct, was invited to stay on when Baugur and Charles Wilson came in to rescue Booker but he declined. Now Bill is hitting the business headlines again.

The Daily Telegraph devoted almost a full page to his teaming up with Cerebus, described by Helen Power as an “uber-secretive American hedge fund”, to perform a turnaround exercise on the ailing Focus DIY chain.

“What I bring to the party is a knowledge of how to turn businesses around which I’ve done twice now,” Bill told Helen. All in all she gave him a decent write up and it looks like he’ll succeed.

AWARDS. The Federation of Wholesale Distributors annual awards dinner continued its legendary tradition for the best night out in the total grocery trade – now at the Caf eacute; Royal after years at the now to be remodelled but once glorious Savoy.

It was at the latter years ago that Dudley Ramsden broke the rules (surely not Dudley I hear you say) when with legend Peter Garvin he was awarded a joint Gold Medal.

Winners are rightly barred from making speeches. But Dudley, then the major shareholder in the club, grasped the microphone and exclaimed: “I have not been so proud or excited since Grimsby Town beat Everton in the FA Cup.”

He watched his son, Nick, follow in his footsteps. A young wholesaler of promise, he received a Gold Medal at the Caf eacute; Royal and was dignity itself.

Caf eacute; Royal is the new red hot ticket. You must book now if you want to get into this year’s thrash. Honest.

HERITAGE. Federation Gold Medals are wholesaling’s undisputed top awards, unique and much sought after. But they nearly failed at the first hurdle when Barry Skipper, then Booker chief and FWD luminary, was presented with the concept in 1988.

Many other equally successful wholesalers of the day shared his view that the trade was becoming awash with awards. Colleagues and suppliers may remember (there are still a few about) that he could be so very obstinate.

The test he set was this: if some top brains among manufacturers could support the awards as credible and valuable and sponsor them, then they could proceed – which they did.

This was Barry’s usual strategy – make people think everything through once and then again.

UNITED. Inevitably, the club with the red strip which is based in the Borough of Trafford – as distinct from the City of Manchester which has only one famous soaraway club – is moving its marketing department to London.

This is where their core fan base resides, says The Guardian. It’s a marketing thing. But it’s not localness or heritage is it? These values are unknown at The Swamp.

Borough of Trafford United supporters are sprinkled generously throughout our industry, especially in suppliers’ marketing departments.

They are frequently the target of wholesalers’ wrath. Do these fans also take their eye off the ball?

CAPPELO. Can he make England winners again? Are soccer managers the real thing when it comes to inspiration? Sven?

The late great Brian Clough was hired in the 1980s by DBC to give a motivational lecture to the struggling senior management. How effective was that?

Sir Alex is claimed – amazingly in open conversation – by some senior industry people to be their iconoclastic guru at whose managerial feet they worship. But to some he is just a bad-tempered moaning Scot who got lucky.

Could you name a wholesaler who would make a motivational soccer manager? Answers on a postcard, please.

BURCHILLED. Someone going by the name of Julie Burchill penned a comic piece in The Guardian (19.12.07) saying how much she loved Tesco – and attacking independent retailers with a venom which one hopes will be repaid by her local stores in Brighton.

“The idea that Tesco has always been a corner-shop crushing colossus is a lie, one perpetuated by bitter, third-rate businessmen who would dearly love to have achieved a quarter of what (Jack) Cohen did but lacked the ability and luck to pull it off,” she wrote.

There was more vitriol too for “foodies” and “farmers whose nests have been feathered more than enough by the EU”. An hysterical Miss Burchill also had it in for “Tesco-haters” who alleged the giant was rampaging like Attila The Hun.

She reminded readers that Hitler wanted to ban big multiple chain stores and give markets back to small shopkeepers. Bless.

ISSUE. This needs attending to urgently. Unforeseen consequences of new legislation and crack-downs is bringing youths out on to our streets – and small shops are the victims.

Dennis Williams, FWD MSYS Gold Medal Retailer of the Year, identifies the growing problem of intimidating youths seeking alcohol or cigarettes or both. They congregate outside local independents asking adult customers to buy them their requirements.

In common with fellow retailers with the same problem, he has asked the police to intervene at his Edinburgh store. Are there Home Office guidelines on this? It’s serious.

ArresTED. Retailer Bela Arun called the police to arrest youths who had urinated outside his Gravesend shop, had taunted

him with racist insults and worse.

One youth pushed Bela who returned the push.

Outcome? Bela was arrested. He spent a night in the cells and was released the next afternoon without charge. His customers are outraged.

Action please, Jacqui Smith. And a happy New Year to you all.

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