FWD Conference: Today’s and Heineken talk partnerships and profit

Today’s Wholesale Services managing director Bill Laird yesterday urged wholesalers to embrace change if the industry is not to remain the “poor relation” to multiple grocers.

He told delegates at this year’s Federation of Wholesale Distributors annual conference that while wholesalers were perceived as entrepreneurial, with strong family values and a sense of loyalty to their customers and suppliers, they were also viewed as somewhat ‘old fashioned’, resistant to change, particularly where technology is concerned, and too focussed on the transactional side of their businesses.

He said wholesalers must embrace change to attract continued and increased investment and to help their retail and foodservice customers. He pointed out that the wholesale channel turnover stood at £26.6bn last year and was forecast to rise to £31bn by 2016, but warned that progress could only be made if wholesalers themselves looked to the future.

“The benefits of change will be that the independent sector will continue to grow, investment will be justified because the return on investment will be credible,” Laird added.

However, doing nothing would have the reverse effect, he warned. “The sector will remain the poor relation and investment will be difficult to justify. Independent retailers will be inadequately supported and consumers will be forced back to the multiples.”

Laird, sharing the stage with Heineken UK trading director for wholesale and convenience Craig Clarkson, stressed the key to moving forward was to form strong partnerships with major suppliers.

“Willing partners develop common aims and objectives with a joint desire to achieve them,” said Laird. “Synergies are created at cross-functional levels with mutual trust and respect underpinning actions and decisions.”

His views were echoed by Clarkson who said working together on a “shopper centric” approach would maintain and encourage category growth. He said data sharing and setting joint category objectives ensured a joint vision and hence a solid strategy for the future from which suppliers, wholesalers, retailers and, ultimately, shoppers could all benefit from.

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