Coral Rose column: Recognising wholesale’s impact

I’d like to start the new year and my new role as FWD chairman by paying tribute to everyone in the wholesale sector who helped fuel the nation’s celebrations over the festive period.

To all the drivers who battled through winter conditions and holiday traffic; to the depot teams who kept the shelves stacked and the products flowing in and out; to the telesales stars who helped their customers meet exceptional demand; and to everyone who put in extra shifts to cover for colleagues’ well-earned leave – well done, and thank you.

Your hard work kept shops, restaurants, pubs and public services supplied and gave families and friends all across the country a Christmas and New Year to remember.

It’s a shame most people won’t know about the effort that went into providing them with the food and drink that plays such an important part in their celebrations. That’s something I want to address in the year ahead.

Wholesale distribution is a hidden world to most people. They value their local shops and independent cafes, restaurants and coffee shops, but they can be forgiven for never considering the support those outlets get from their supply chain partners.

Our invisibility as an industry hurts us when it comes to recruiting new talent. Wholesale isn’t a first-choice career for school leavers and graduates, simply because they’re not aware of it. It’s actually a sector that rewards an individual’s investment and one where a person can see their ideas become reality and make a significant contribution to their company’s success.

Within my own team at Country Range Group, we have examples of young people who have quickly progressed into senior roles. Those of us who have worked in food distribution all our working lives know it’s a rewarding career and a fantastically friendly and supportive working environment.

I would like to make 2020 the year we get this message across loud and clear to new and potential recruits to FWD members’ ranks.

This visibility begins at the top and I’d like to see FWD continue the ongoing work of raising wholesale distribution’s profile with government. Representing wholesale is the Federation’s main role on behalf of members and one it performs successfully.

Last year, we averaged one meeting a fortnight with government officials and met 14 MPs and members of the House of Lords at Westminster, as well as inviting several to members’ cash and carry depots and distribution centres.

We submitted consultation responses on issues affecting FWD members, including allergens, the National Living Wage, the packaging producer responsibility system and the Deposit Return Scheme in Scotland.

I’m pleased to be chairing the FWD Council of Members and I’d like to thank my predecessor, Andrew Selley, for his contribution over the past three years in the role and his help in handing over the chairman’s responsibilities.

I believe one of this sector’s greatest strengths is its ability to come together through its trade association and discuss the effectiveness and efficiency of its service to our huge customer base. As we saw at the recent Gold Medal Awards, there’s a tremendous support for this collaboration and for the people who commit to wholesale and excel within it.

I hope we can build on this and shout ever more loudly about it as we go together into the 2020s.

column Coral Rose FWD FWD chairman Gold Medal Awards service Westminster wholesale Wholesalers