Andrew Selley departing as FWD’s chairman
After three years in the role, Selley looks back at FWD’s achievements in that time and what’s in store for his successor when named later this month
This is my final column for Wholesale News as chairman of FWD after three years working with the council and the executive team to further the mutual interest of the food and drink wholesale sector. Later this month, I’ll perform my last task in the role, which will be to hand over the chain of office to my successor at the Gold Medals awards presentation – and to reveal for the first time who that is.
During my tenure as chairman, FWD celebrated its centenary and it’s a testament to the good spirit and respectful nature of this industry that for more than 100 years, companies that spend their days in competition have been willing to come together through their trade association to discuss issues that affect distributors, their customers and their suppliers. Long may that approach continue.
The past two years have seen us expand our wholesaler membership, even as the industry goes through a succession of consolidations. Two of our most recent recruits reflect this, with Spanish food specialist Mevalco and exporter Ramsden International joining us. As the role of wholesale changes, we’re seeing more players (some of them very familiar to consumers) coming into our market and we will be discussing with them how they can benefit from FWD’s services.
We also currently have massive support from the supplier community, with 120 brand owners, product suppliers and service providers among our supplier member and supplier partner memberships. They benefit not only from closer ties to wholesalers but also from the training sessions, category discussions and networking events FWD provides through its mission to bring wholesale together.
My time in the role has also coincided with the most turbulent period of political upheaval most of us can remember, and I want to thank the FWD team for the way it has kept members updated through the many twists and turns of the Brexit discussions. While there is still a long way to go, thanks to FWD and its connections to government officials, we can at least understand the impacts on the industry and the actions we need to take.
We can also look back with pride on the introduction of AWRS, the alcohol wholesaler registration scheme that FWD proposed to government, which has reduced duty fraud by £250 million since its introduction, while returning sales to responsible traders. FWD continues to work across a range of different issues, from packaging to health, and track and trace to workforce issues, and the trade is in good hands as we look towards an uncertain legislative horizon.
I’m also pleased we’ve tackled issues in our sector that might limit the supply of talent and diversity into wholesale. We’ve introduced a Dignity at Work charter for how we conduct our business and social interaction and helped women build a career in wholesale through our training and development grants, Gold Medals recognition and support for the fantastic Women in Wholesale initiative.
I don’t know if the level of cooperation and support we see between competitors makes this industry unique, but it certainly makes it special. Looking forward, it’s going to be incredibly important to build even further on this spirit of cooperation if we’re to rise to the challenge of addressing the pressing threats to our environment in an effective and responsible way – challenges none of us can overcome as individual businesses alone.
It’s a great place to work and we’ll all gather to celebrate another year of collective achievement at the Gold Medals on 28 November. Thanks for your support over my time in the chair and I wish my successor the very best of luck.