Dramatic initial reports from the House of Commons indicate that a powerful group of MPs will seek to defend the wholesale sector in the ongoing debate on unfair competition.
Members of the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group (APSSG) are reported to have concerns about the viability of the wholesale sector should it continue to lose volume due to small shop closures.
This new focus on the wholesale sector means that MPs have responded positively to submissions to an APSSG hearing by John Murphy, director general of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors.
He appeared at the hearing with Steve Parfett, chairman of Landmark Wholesale and immediate past chairman of the federation.
The APSSG, chaired by Jim Dowd MP, has taken evidence from representatives from the superstores, consumer groups and retailer campaigners.
But authoritative press reports ahead of the publication of the group’s recommendations say that the retail giants will be given a clean bill of health.
This support for the big four, on the grounds that they provide the consumer with low prices and wide ranges, will dismay many campaigners.
But the new reference by APSSG to the need to defend the future of the wholesale industry has transformed the debate, which is now likely to centre on FWD and its defence of the non-multiple sole trader and family business.
The Sunday Telegraph on January 1 reported that the MPs believed the buying power of the superstores could “lead to a collapse” of the supply chain to small independents.
Murphy told ProWholesaler: “The FWD case was put to the group by Steve Parfett and myself in no uncertain terms. We outlined a nightmare scenario for our members and their customers. The retail side of the sector could collapse.
“If volumes diminish the terms from suppliers will reflect this in higher prices to wholesalers and independents.
“This is a vicious circle. The fact that it is reported that MPs see our point is a big boost to a campaign that we have been waging for many years.
“This is a breakthrough for wholesalers even though we are very disappointed that APSSG cannot see its way to recommending trading curbs on the giant superstores.
“We feel this is short sighted, though we recognise politically it would not be elector-friendly for MPs to appear to be seeking higher prices at Tesco for their constituents.”
Murphy added: “FWD will expect the OFT to take note of this welcome support for wholesalers and the grocery and newsagent sole traders and family businesses they serve.”
Addressing the 2004 annual conference of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, Jim Dowd MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group (APSSG), spoke out against unfair trading which disadvantaged small stores.
He gained considerable insight into the wholesale mechanism at the conference and this may have resulted in the new APSSG focus on the future of wholesaling and non-multiple stores.
Dowd is a former Heron garage manager. He is the member of Parliament for Lewisham West.