Driving growth

This month the FWD welcomes Landmark Wholesale MD Martin Williams as its new chairman. In this, his first column for Wholesale News, he sets out his ambition for the Federation over the coming months

It is a great honour for me to take over as chairman of the FWD this month, especially as the previous incumbent, Guy Farrant, has done such a great job of setting the Federation up as a respected, resourceful representative of the wholesale sector.

UK food and drink wholesalers are in good shape at the moment, with consumers turning away from the hypnotic lure of out-of-town retailers and restaurant chains and looking again at the convenience, diversity and quality on offer locally. FWD members are supporting some great small businesses not only with the products they need but with their experience of working with thousands of similar operations.

FWD’s role is to bang the drum for the distribution sector, and show all our audiences – from the government, to the suppliers, the media and the public – just how vital a role its members play in the lives of millions of people. We’re currently working on research which will establish for the first time exactly what the sector offers the UK economy – including the jobs it creates directly and through its support of local businesses, the tax and duty it passes to the public purse, and the service it provides to regional communities.

We will share the results of this survey with our supplier partners at our conference on July 10th. Politicians and government officials will be shown why wholesale deserves their support at a launch event in Westminster in October, and we will work with national and trade media to raise awareness of the hidden heroes behind every high street.

I am particularly looking forward to working with our restructured Supplier Council. This is a forum for supply chain partners to flatten out the bumps in the road to the consumer. Through our discussions we’ll be helping supplier companies to understand the needs of wholesalers, and vice versa, and encouraging new and existing brand owners to realise the full potential of investing in the channel. FWD is the perfect host for bringing stakeholders together in this way is way, and this is something I want to build on, whether it’s gathering to celebrate our successes at our Gold Medal Awards, or sharing intelligence on criminal activity, or helping new entrants understand the channel through our ‘Introduction to Wholesale’ days.

A great number of FWD’s resources go into representing members’ interests to government. As well as working with ministers and their departments, we recruit the help of individual MPs by inviting them into depots to see for themselves what FWD members do for small businesses in their constituencies. With their support, we are pushing hard for a fair deal on crime, duty evasion, alcohol pricing, tobacco packaging, the Food Information to Consumers Regulations and the National Minimum Wage, and other issues that threaten wholesalers’ ability to offer the best service to their customers and consumers.

It’s going to be a busy term in office and I’m confident that by working together we can make meaningful progress for the wholesale channel and everyone who works within it.

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