Captain Vigilante

MORATORIUM. Ed Sturton, on the Today programme on April 25, had a wonderful opportunity to nail Sir Terry Leahy on Tesco’s supplier relations policies and intentions in the local store sector.

He failed – as he did in getting the moratorium, for which Vigilante has desperately campaigned, mentioned on the public airwaves.

Sir Terry, more than an intellectual match for most, succeeded in putting the main focus of the interview on planning matters and suspected secret land banks.

The planning issue is not the most important factor in the controversy about multiple domination of the market – the first principle of the Competition Commission inquiry must be an immediate moratorium – putting all further multiple store expansion on hold.

CHOKED. Vigilante swallowed hard on his Jordan’s luxury muesli listening to the faltering presenter. For goodness sake, he urged silently, why don’t you ask him to agree to a moratorium to get the concept and the m-word aired while Tony Blair (and Sir Terry’s chum Cherie) are listening?

Sir Terry would have turned down the idea of a moratorium – the quickest and most sensible platform on which to launch an inquiry – therefore converting hundreds of thousands of anti-mult people on to the idea.

By steadfastly refusing to disclose the size of his land bank, Sir Terry filled his alloted time very nicely – and left listeners believing that land banks are the key to the future.

But the future of independent retailers is based on cost prices – terms not greenfield sites. The OFT decision on the terms of the inquiry are awaited as we go to press.

OBSESSED. That might be the right word for some who just can’t leave Sir Terry alone to get on with his job of making money for shareholders. So why the Cheshunt public relations department had to shoot the company in the foot in The Independent on April 6 is a mystery.

This friendly fire took the form of an article written by an underling but signed by Sir Terry in which he invoked the spirit of Tesco’s founder Sir Jack Cohen, and his “family” firm.

“We have learned it is possible to import some of the values and characteristics of a family firm into the way we try to run a public company,” said the article, referring to the Cohen legacy and poo-pooing corporateness.

Cuddly family companies are what My Shop Is Your Shop is about. Has Cheshunt read the MSYS mission and decided it wants some of it?

Is the next Tesco slogan – Sir Terry’s Shop Is Your Shop? Doesn’t sound quite right.

CAMPAIGNS. The Evening Standard is a London newspaper, so a majority of Vigilante’s loyal following will not be aware of it. But it has influence.

The paper is campaigning on behalf of small shops and journalist Jonathan Prynn, who is running the activity, is switched on. He has noted the FWD My Shop Is Your Shop, Local and Proud Of It programme of activity, and how it puts clear and specific blue water between sole traders and family businesses – wholesalers’ core customers – and multiple c-stores.

The environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth has now launched it’s Keep It Local campaign, but some believe that if you took this literally in many parts of the country the unthinking shopper would be encouraged to spend at a local Tesco Express – not quite what was intended.

FoE has activists on the ground who can tell a multiple from an independent, so it will help. The more the merrier.

LISTS. The publication of various lists of rich people, a few in our industry, was the subject of some gossip. Some are Asian, of course, and in an industry where there is endless curiosity among competitors about each other’s welfare, if you know what is meant by that, this fact will not go unremarked.

Compared with wholesaling in the 1930s, our present market is far more dynamic, creative and enterprising even in the face of the most ferocious multiple competition. British Asians have a big input.

Asian friends complain about our terrible weather but demonstrate a firm commendable conviction about the value of education and learning for their children, regarding the opportunity to work hard as a blessing.

The lists seem to miss this point.

MANUAL. “How to run a cash and carry and succeed” may or may not be the title of a book now at the writing stage, authored by one of the best known names in the industry.

When it is published, young people in our industry and in the supplier community, could do themselves a commercial favour by giving the book a line by line study.

Vigilante’s lips, as usual, are firmly sealed as to the author’s identity but if there is no complementary review copy (hint) in the plan then it will be a definite buy by a relative as a Christmas present when eventually it hits the bookshelves.

BOOKER. Maintaining a literary mood, The Sunday Telegraph of April 16 included in its columns a further instalment of the story of the now defunct Big Food Group, according to Malcolm Walker.

He, of course, founded Iceland, masterminded its merger with Booker to form BFG, and then left the company shortly after. He has now returned and, if our local Iceland is anything to go by, revitalised the company.

The Booker Story, by Judy Slinn and Jennifer Tanburn (Jarrold Publishing, 227 pages), was the last work centred on the wholesale industry, but of course it could not include the company drama of 2004/5.

Charles Wilson, Booker chief executive, calmly told the annual FWD conference how he was turning over the page in the troubled recent history of our biggest cash and carry and mapping out a very credible road to recovery.

LUTON. There is something inescapable about this town with an airport. And the more you get to know Luton Town FC, the more you warm to the place.

Luton Town, nicely in the top segment of the Coca-Cola Championship, is community based – you can tell just by the way in which the Kenilworth Road ground is surrounded by streets of terraced houses.

This was how professional football grew up, with grounds in or near city centres, the stands rising like giants over the adjacent streets of two-up and two-downs.

The FWD My Shop Is Your Shop (MSYS) campaign is designing new links for Luton independent retailers and their local professional club.

Football In The Community (FITC) has been established by the Professional Footballers’ Association for many years.

Now, MSYS, helped by FTIC, will investigate how formalised links with soccer can benefit the community.

Youngsters who hang around local shops at night, being anti-social or threatening to be, just might be inspired to take some interest in sport instead of being interested only in themselves and self-absorbed.

So it’s not just about soccer, it’s about decent behaviour too. Does this now begin to ring important social and community bells?

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