Cradle to grave, we’re there for you

Back in the 1980s there used to be a popular bumper sticker that you would see in school car parks: “If you can read this, thank a teacher”.

It was a simple but powerful message from a group of professionals whose contribution was often overlooked, and who at the time were in danger of being undervalued and underfunded. Well, here’s another version of the same: “If you’ve eaten today, thank a wholesaler”.

James Bielby, chief executive FWDWholesale distribution plays a crucial role in our lives from the moment we’re born. The hospital where we make our arrival has a kitchen that feeds both the midwife and the mother. All through our school years we line up before dinner ladies to receive what for some is the most nutritious meal of the day. Whatever our career path takes us after that – university, office, industrial estate, even prison, whether it’s public sector or private – it’s a wholesaler who puts the food on our plates and the drinks in our cups.

Many of us value communities and want to preserve them by supporting our locally-owned shops, cafes, and pubs. We recognise that money spent on our doorstep benefits our neighbours and ourselves. When we travel (on a train, boat or plane where the food comes from… guess who?) we’ll seek out independent hotels and family-run restaurants. And if we’re lucky and live long enough, maybe we’ll end our days in a care home, scoffing the treats of our childhood, delivered by a man in a familiar-looking van.

FWD members supply and support more than 400,000 retail and catering businesses. Many of them are small, independently-owned, and offer a range that’s perfectly tailored for their customer base. They provide diversity, quality and friendly service in every corner of the nation, including places where supermarkets and national restaurant chains can’t reach. They go out of their way for the elderly and immobile, they support local charities and food banks, and they offer flexible hours which fit around their staff’s needs. They know their customers by name and think of them as friends.

Standing beside each of these businesses is a wholesaler who provides data and gives advice, offers help with expanding the business, engaging customers and understanding regulations, and above all appreciates the different demands of each of their partners.

Now all of that sounds pretty impressive and instantly deserving of recognition from a Government that loudly trumpets its support for entrepreneurship and community. It is FWD’s job, as the wholesale sector’s voice in Westminster and Whitehall, to turn this sentiment into cold hard fact. We need to be able to measure the contribution our members make, not only to the economy, but also to society as a whole.

This month we are embarking on our latest research project with Capital Economics which will capture wholesale’s contribution in terms that matter to policy makers. The businesses supplied and supported; the jobs created directly and indirectly; the tax returned to the Exchequer; the services provided where none would exist otherwise. It’s an extension of a successful piece of work from 2014 which showed where wholesale distribution adds value to UK PLC, but this time we are going further and exploring how wholesale benefits everybody, every day.

 We’re calling our research project The Whole Society, reflecting the reach wholesale has from cradle to grave. Join us at our conference, Delivering Change, on June 29, where we’ll reveal the first analysis of the impact of our industry on the lives of millions of people.









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