Wilson maps out plan for revival at Booker

Booker has successfully completed the first stage of a three phase recovery plan, chief executive Charles Wilson told delegates at the FWD’s Annual Conference.

Wilson said his priority when he took charge of Booker in October was to stabilise it by March 2006, with part of the focus being to improve availability, and remove complexity from the business.

In the next year, he said, he wanted to improve choice for customers, reduce prices and provide a better service. Having got the offer right for existing customers the plan for 2008 would be to extend the offer of products and services and recruit new customers.

Another speaker at the conference, Batleys operations director Martin Race, spoke about the careful way Bestway had integrated the two businesses since the takeover in February 2005.

He revealed that Bestway would be investing pound;25m in the business in the next year and in addition to upgrading three Bestway depots a new Batleys depot would be opening in 2007.

The expected review of the UK grocery market and what could be learned from the experience in Ireland was the subject of a paper by competition consultant Myles O’Reilly.

He said the recently rescinded Groceries Order, which banned below cost selling on a wide range of products, had helped to maintain a much stronger independent retail sector in Ireland, when compared with the UK.

He believed a case could be made for such controls in the UK, but that one of the lessons from Ireland was that it needed to be policed by a body committed to it, and not by the competition authority which might be opposed to it.

l There will be a full account of the conference in the next edition of ProWholesaler.

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