FWD chairman Andrew Selley set the scene for yesterday’s annual Conference by outlining some of the major challenges facing the industry, but reminded the assembled delegates that the industry had “survived and thrived” though worse situations in the past.
Brexit, inflation, the Living Wage, an ageing workforce, a new breed of consumer and threats from new competitors all posed significant challenges for wholesalers, their suppliers and customers he said. However, speaking to some 300 senior wholesalers and suppliers at St Georges Park in Burton-on-Trent, he asked: “Has there ever been a more challenging time? I’d say probably yes – is it more challenging now than it was in WWI, WWII or the Great Depression? Probably not. Are the economic issues harder than what was faced during the three-day week or rampant inflation? Probably not. And in all of those situations our industries thrived and survived, so we are operating in a resilient industry – we must never forget that.”
He stressed to Conference that his reminder was not to encourage complacency, but for “perspective”, adding: “They are real challenges and we do have to deal with them, but many of them we can overcome by collaborating rather than competing.”
Pointing to the FWD as a “unique organisation”, Selley told Conference: “Many supplier members compete on a daily basis and clearly many wholesale members compete in the different sectors of the markets we work in. But we all recognise the strength of coming together on an industry basis, in a neutral way to tackle areas of common interest within the parameters of competition law…Uncertainties create opportunities and that creates the chance for all of us to be prosperous.”
FWD also used Conference to announce that Sterling Supergroup Ltd, the last of the wholesale buying groups left outside the FWD fold, would be joining the Federation.
For more from Andrew Selley, alongside a full Conference report and more on Sterling joining FWD, don’t miss the July issue of Wholesale News!