Captain Vigilante

SHAME. Is “the media” being fair to Bill Grimsey, who impressed some trade journos as the Booker champion of independents while simultaneously turning the now extinct Big Food Group into a smaller food group?

Malcolm Walker, back in charge of Iceland, told The Guardian that his company lost pound;400m in sales in the four years he was away.

Consultants who advised Grimsey to turn Iceland into a c-store group were paid pound;16m. Walker says he is now busy converting these outlets back into the profitable frozen food stores we knew and loved and which will not compete with independent grocers.

Should Bill have the right of reply?

PURR. Mind you, the best news to come out of Iceland is that ravishing brunette Kerry Katona has been signed up for another year to star in company advertising. She was an Atomic Kitten of outstanding talent.

Wholesalers driving the My Shop Is Your Shop (MSYS) campaign would give their eye teeth for backing from such a star. MSYS is in the same competition – setting out to persuade consumers into certain courses of action – but at a more modest budget level. Pity.

FAIRTRADE. Wholesalers can take some credit for the accelerating trend to Fairtrade products which give the farmers who grow them a better return than they once received.

Some time ago the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, breaking the mould, gave a spot on its Catersummit programme to the Fairtrade movement. It hit the spot.

Coincidentally, Marks Spencer will stock only Fairtrade tea and coffee in April and display lots of ethically-sound clothes.

At the aforementioned Catersummit, one big brand coffee supplier (now also trending ethically) stalked off saying he would send a sample of really decent coffee to FWD hq for the morning awakener for the staff.

They are still waiting.

ROSY. That’s not the view taken by some of the suppliers to the aforementioned Marks Spencer, headed by former Booker boss Stuart Rose, who wants lower cost terms.

City editors have supported him at M S. They back his argument that he should have lower prices because he is selling higher volumes.

Volume is everything. It’s a word that is pinging round the inner sanctums of the OFT where the hierarchy are suffering sleepless nights on the issue of a big-time grocery market review.

Will the OFT fall back on the time-honoured rationale that wholesalers will get better terms from suppliers only if they increase their volumes and efficiencies by merging?

ADMIRED. Tesco has replaced BP as the most admired British company by the global business community – voted for by 8,645 company directors and analysts in 23 countries, according to the magazine Fortune.

But it was only placed 43rd in the worldwide listing. Crikey!

Will Sir Terry Leahy quote this very modest evaluation if the OFT beak hauls him up to explain how he has the cheek to be so successful?

Sir Terry sailed through his Radio 5 Business interview by Jeff Randall sounding, well, avuncular is the word. Randall is on record as being an anti-Tesco domination kinda guy.

We must find a Paxman who is on our side.

PEPSICOED. Martin Glenn torpedoed the proposed FSA traffic light symbols during the nutrition information debate (February 9) on breakfast TV. He’s a media natural.

Glenn, clean cut, natty suit, is the suppliers’ Andrew Flintoff. He smacked the interview questions for four as he sensationally demolished the FSA proposals for red, yellow and green symbols to indicate the good, the bad and the OK on pack.

Manufacturers’ proposed nutritional percentage information makes sense, said Glenn. It would mean, he added, that cheese would not get a red card as it would if the traffic lights were switched on.

Wholesalers are among his biggest customers.

C-WORD. Wholesalers warm to the way in which their focus on the independent retailers’ value to the community is being adopted by all and sundry.

Vigilante notes that every trade paper now contains a story based on the word community as if it was a new ARTD flavour.

FWD introduced National Independents’ Day (NID), with the emphasis not on trading terms, not on market domination, not on transparent pricing but, yes, on community.

FWD introduced Community Stars in 2004 – retailers who supported NID at retail level. There’s nothing like being the genuine innovator for a genuine cause.

COUPONS. Which brings Vigilante on cue to another wholesalers’ innovative success – the Daily Mirror/Daily Record (Scotland) generic money-off coupon promotion for NID.

This second NID coupon promo again puts real tangible independent value plus supportive positive feel-good editorial in front of the shopper and is stupendously innovative.

And bloody hard work to co-ordinate (to use the adjective spotted in the sacred text of the weekly rant by the editor of The Grocer).

MSYS is the only engine that can drive this revolutionary, positive and constructive concept – and deliver.

M-WORD. Yes, it’s all over the place. Everybody is calling for one – MPs, trade associations which have suddenly discovered it, trade papers, national papers, TV pundits, environmentalists…

More followers of this column now support Vigilante’s long-held belief that it is the only action which will halt the march of the superstores until a sensible framework is in place for the future.

Unless it comes soon, it will be too late to save thousands of independent retailers and the diversity they bring to the marketplace and their communities.

We now hear the regulator is minded to seek a market review.

Next month, the OFT will take the first steps to impose a … moratorium.

UNPLACED. Happy Shopper was the 5 – 2 favourite in the 3.50 at Exeter on March 7. Twelve ran but our wager – and those of other wholesale sector supporters – now rests in the bookie’s back pocket.

SOCIETY. Allegedly, Mrs T said there was no such thing as society and perhaps the OFT is staffed with folks who follow this creed. Who knows?

Adam Crozier, ex-soccer supremo but now working for former Mars wholesaler supporter and current post office gaffer Allan Leighton might be of this disposition.

Crozy, as he would be known among soccer stars, says he will close 10,000 rural post offices which are “unprofitable”. No such thing as society is the implication.

But the Rural Shops Alliance is campaigning in support of rural stores. and in Scotland Spar has taken up the fight to open post offices in its stores.

Is it not an opportunity for every wholesaler to look at every rural PO in jeopardy? The OFT can ignore the matter – its terms of reference breathtakingly do not include social issues.

Between them, Crozy and the OFT can destroy rural Britain.

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