James Bielby, FWD Chief Executive

FWD Column: Unlock the power of wholesale

Face-to-face events are where the most valuable connections are made and are the secret to driving your business forward says James Bielby, FWD CEO

Bringing Wholesale Together has long been an FWD cornerstone. Getting people back in the room in a post-Covid world has been key for retail wholesalers to build on increased turnovers during those turbulent years and critical for those in foodservice who bore the brunt of a shuttered industry.

Networking is now on a new level with more events than ever before in the FWD calendar mirroring the moves made by our members, and wholesalers are clocking up the steps.


Getting the right event mix is vital. Like FWD, nearly all our members host large-scale events such as trade shows, conferences or awards evenings. And if they aren’t hosting, they are attending. This is a sector that is proud to showcase its wares and celebrate the achievements of the people that make it possible. These events are Grade A networking opportunities where connections are made and deals are done. Getting events right does matter as it’s where the most valuable connections are made.

For FWD, it’s been a busy start to 2024 with the Parliamentary Reception at the end of January championing change to the Apprenticeship Levy. This was followed in February by our largest ever attendance at an Introduction to Wholesale event at A.F. Blakemore & Son in Bedford. Seventy-five suppliers, wholesalers and service providers came together to hear insight from A.F. Blakemore, Unitas, PepsiCo, Nestlé Professional and Lumina. A key message was about connection: “Wholesale runs on people and relationships so use an end-to-end approach and engage stakeholders early in your plans – including price increases. Build trust by doing the basics brilliantly!”

FWD made good use of the leap day and held our Business Lunch in London where RSM Consultants discussed the role of AI in wholesale and Peter Foster, Public Policy Editor of the Financial Times, looked at the economic landscape. Keynote came from former Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King, who told members to stay a step or two ahead of consumers, row in the opposite direction to reach their goal and to act like they are number 2 in the market to stay competitive.

Most recently, we attended IFE at London Excel to meet supplier and wholesale members, where our panel session, ‘Customers at the Heart of Wholesale’, discussed sustainability, the digital customer and growth plans.


Our annual conference, FWD Live!, returns on 27 June at The Midland, Manchester. I can also exclusively reveal the central theme of the event as ‘Unlocking the Power of Wholesale’, which will focus on innovation and operations.

Before then, we have the return of the Women in Wholesale Speed Mentoring event, taking place at a bigger venue to welcome even more members, and our Future Leaders Forum workshop ‘Get Mentally Fit for Leadership’.

Despite the uncertainty of policy updates and a general election, it’s an interesting and busy time for the sector. However you engage with us, please keep on doing so, join us in person where you can and keep those connections growing.


FWD Live! 27 June, The Midland Hotel, Manchester
To book your tickets visit bizshowsapp.com/fwd-2024

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