Tributes paid as former FWD Director General dies

Alan Toft, the former Director General of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors who led FWD for 16 years, has died at the age of 91

Alan joined FWD in 1989 having previously been editor and founder of Independent Grocer magazine, now Independent Retail News. He oversaw FWD’s relaunch as a high-profile representative body with a mission to highlight the importance of the wholesale channel to government as well as to suppliers.

He passionately believed in the economic and societal value of family-run independent stores and fought hard to protect them from the incursion of multiple retailers.

Alan’s friends and former colleagues say he was most proud of creating the My Shop is Your Shop campaign and Independents’ Week, which focused on the value to the community of local family-owned stores, and was adopted by retailers across the country as a symbol of their contribution to their communities. Alan continued to front the campaign after stepping down as DG in 2005. He also established Blueprint, a merchandising template for the alcohol category which was widely praised by both manufacturers and retailers.

On his retirement in 2009, Alan received the Lifetime Achievement Award at FWD’s Gold Medal Dinner, with the Chairman Francis Ball saying in his citation: “Alan’s singular drive, creativity and ‘can do’ attitude built back the membership and calendar of events and activities over 20 years. Very largely due to Alan Toft’s leadership and tireless efforts, the Federation performs a vital role in promoting the health and prosperity of the UK wholesale industry and its major customer groups.”

Nikki Connor, FWD’s Events Director, who worked with Alan for 16 years, said: “He was a fantastic boss. He always took ultimate responsibility for everything – even if you knew you had made a mistake he would always say it was his fault. He made the job good fun – I never took all my annual leave as it was better to be at work!”

FWD Chief Executive James Bielby said: “Alan was a passionate advocate for all things independent and their role in the community, and under his leadership FWD played a key role in demonstrating their value to consumers and suppliers.”

His friend Graham Shelley of IMA Group added: “Alan’s contribution to the independent retail sector was immense. At FWD he created a meeting place where ideas were discussed, plans were hatched and deals were made, all in a wonderfully convivial atmosphere. He was hugely respected and influential, and always led from the front.”

Alan Toft FWD Graham Shelley James Bielby Nikki Connor