Gold Medals show the value of investment in talent

Our Gold Medals Awards dinner is one of the best events in the FWD calendar, not just because it’s a huge celebration for all our members and the suppliers they work with over the course of the year, but also because it gives us a chance to recognise and reward outstanding individual achievements.

The eight individual award winners were deservedly praised by our 760 guests at Old Billingsgate, and while their triumph is a testament to their own efforts and enthusiasm, it also reflects the investment that our members make in ensuring that good people are able to fulfill their potential.

After the tumultuous global events of 2016, and with prospects for the year ahead looking at best uncertain, there might be a temptation to relieve pressure on squeezed margins by cutting back on training and development of staff. It’s just one of the budget lines that can be sacrificed for short-term stability, but it’s a disastrous move for the long-term success and sustainability of our industry.

Our awards dinner last month was studded with former winners of the Young Wholesaler of the Year Award, most of whom, like our outgoing Chairman Martin Williams, have gone on to hold top jobs in the sector thanks to the support and investment of their employers. We can’t afford to let that kind of talent slip away. One of FWD’s biggest successes this year has been awarding more than £25,000 in grants to help fund skills and professional development among our members’ collective 70,000-strong workforce, and our Fellowship Fund bursary continues to be available as match-funding for members’ investment. Any wholesaler who hasn’t taken advantage of this is really missing out.

We also made Government aware of the sector’s commitment to training among our members when we took 17 apprentices and trainees to the House of Commons to meet MPs and impress on them the contribution that our sector makes to developing young people’s careers. As a result, some of these MPs have asked to visit the trainees in their workplace, to find out more about what wholesale distributors do in thier communities.

While some of the economic challenges we expect to face next year are beyond the Government’s control, there’s plenty they can do to help mitigate the impact. April’s rise in the National Living Wage will add £12m to our members’ wage bills overnight, so any future increases really have to be made with full understanding of what such impositions mean to low-margin wholesalers. It’s our job to tell Government that.

While a further fuel duty freeze favours distributors, moves to limit delivery lorries’ access to city centres are alarmingly far advanced, particularly in London. The introduction in April of the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme, which we designed and successfully lobbied for, will drive out the illicit traders who are stealing business from responsible wholesalers, as long as it is communicated widely and enforced vigorously.

Alongside our role as the voice of wholesalers to Government, we have done a lot of work this year to persuade suppliers that wholesale rewards investment and attention. Our How to Win in Wholesale sessions have played to packed houses and we’ve produced three weighty pieces of research which have helped increase communication and understanding in the supply chain. There will be more of this in the year ahead.

As we move further down the road of Brexit we will have a clearer picture of what lies ahead of us. The defining characteristic of 2017 is likely to be how we deal with the changes in our market – how we manage cost increases, and how we take advantage of access to new trading arrangements. FWD will be the liaison with Government as the PM and her colleagues negotiate their way through that minefield, and we’ll be sure to let you know how their decisions affect you as we progress through this transformative period.

Thanks to you all for your ongoing support in 2016 and we look forward to working with you in what we hope will be a prosperous 2017.

James Bielby

Chief Executive


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