It is now seven years since I moved over from working as news editor of The Grocer to take the helm at Wholesale News (or ProWholesaler as it was then). Looking back at those early issues there have been some heartening changes but some other issues have remained disappointingly unresolved.
An ailing Booker, which was dragging the whole sector down seven years ago, had just been taken private by its Icelandic owners and new chairman Hans Kristian Hustad told me he would be bringing in a chief executive, but it would take a few months. It was worth the wait for Charles Wilson and the difference seven years on is staggering.
Bestway had just swallowed its rival Batleys and there were concerns that integrating the two businesses could prove as problematic as Morrison’s takeover of Safeway. But through a slow and careful process, which did not disrupt either of the businesses, Bestway Wholesale Group has continued to thrive and and learned lessons that were useful in integrating the Scottish businesses it has bought more recently.
The issues that remain depressingly familiar are outlined in our lead story this month on the FWD’s Budget submission. In my first issue I was railing against the failure of HM Revenue amp; Customs to tackle duty fraud and seven years on it is costing hundreds of millions of pounds in lost taxes and lost sales for legitimate wholesalers.
Alcohol duty fraud tends to claim the headlines but tobacco fraud is even more costly and increasing duty in the Budget will only strengthen the smugglers cause.
However, the FWD does appear to be making headway in the corridors of power and we can only hope that it will not be another seven years before some effective action is taken.