SWA in Sturgeon plea for wholesaler support

Wholesalers must be represented in any new financial support offered to the hospitality sector according to a new Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) plea.

SWA Chief Executive Colin Smith has called on Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to “understand the impact” new restrictions on hospitality businesses will have further up the supply chain.

New laws will see pubs and restaurants under a strict 10pm curfew, while face masks will be compulsory for bar staff and non-seated customers in restaurants.

And Smith says the impact on sales will hit food and drink wholesalers just as it will the businesses on the front line.

“When hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses closed in March, Scotland’s foodservice wholesaler lost on average 81% of their businesses,” said Smith.

“Unlike hospitality and retail, including major supermarkets making huge profits, local wholesalers were excluded from business rates relief and other financial support, and were forgotten about.

“This can’t be allowed to happen again. Sales have gradually risen, but wholesalers have faced severe cashflow problems, customer debt, stock waste due to it going out of date and removal of trade credit from suppliers.

“Meanwhile they have continued to serve customers in restaurants, care homes, hospitals and those shielding in their own homes.”

Smith’s call for action echoes pleas from FWD Chief Executive James Bielby for wholesaler support as the coronavirus pandemic enters a tough winter period, with Smith offering advice of where he sees help is required.

“We need targeted extensions to the furlough scheme that take these restrictions into account,” Smith added.

“We also need an extension to the business rates relief support system, which recognises that pubs, restaurants and other tourism and leisure businesses need the supply chain to be supported too.

“If investment is only given to the hospitality businesses that are the end users or manufacturers and producers, and not the wholesalers in the middle distributing the goods, the supply chain will weaken and potentially break.

“The front door of the restaurant, pub or hotel is only the visible part of a much bigger supply chain that sits directly behind it and which is inextricably linked to it.”

Colin Smith coronavirus covid-19 Foodservice hospitality Nicola Sturgeon Scotland SWA Wholesalers