With Christmas almost upon us, it’s time for a little reflection. This year seems to have flashed by quicker than most, and on looking back it has truly been one of intense activity for the Federation of Wholesale Distributors.
Our events calendar began and ended successfully at new locations, with the annual conference moving to the Forest of Arden in March and our annual dinner transferring from the Savoy hotel after almost 20 years to the Caf eacute; Royal last month.
Then, our “My Shop Is Your Shop” campaign continued its positive activity promoting the value of the independent c-store, newsagent and rural shop to the local community with the first ever National Independents’ Week in June. This was a great success due mainly to the work put in by wholesalers and an increasing number of suppliers.
However, underlying these and all the FWD’s varied activities this year was the Competition Commission inquiry into the UK grocery market. It was already well into its stride in January and will not conclude until next February. Indeed, this marathon examination of the marketplace in which wholesalers operate dominated our work during the year.
Shortly after our 2006 annual dinner the CC’s “emerging thinking” was revealed, and quite recently its “provisional findings” have been published. Superficially, there was not a great deal in either of these for the wholesale/independent channel to cheer about – and it might appear that the supermarkets have been let off the hook. However, it is important to remember that the recent report was indeed a “provisional” one. And there were areas where the Commission expressed concerns about harm to consumer interests that it will seek to remedy.
There are still further crucial points that could bear on the final outcome that the FWD and its allies are continuing to discuss with the Commission. Notably, the provisional report said it had found insufficient evidence to show a decline in the number of convenience stores. That, of course, flies in the face of reason as far as the trade is concerned. So, together with the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), we have recently submitted fresh figures to the inquiry team that clearly show the fall in numbers of convenience stores under pressure from the might of the Big Four supermarkets
We will debate the final outcome at our annual conference at the Forest of Arden Hotel on March 31 and April 1.
Meanwhile, let me wish you all a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.