The Scottish Wholesale Association’s future focus should be on making wholesaling an attractive place to work and creating a legacy to inspire the next generation. SWA Chief Executive Colin Smith told the Association’s annual conference that training, business building, lobbying and legislation need to be at the forefront of the organisation’s revitalisation:
“Wholesalers deliver £2.9 billion to Scotland’s economy. We’re a huge industry but wholesale outlets have halved in 15 years, so we need input from wholesalers and suppliers to ensure our association stays vibrant and relevant. A stronger association gives us a stronger, louder voice and a much bigger opportunity for growth and change.”
Colin Smith said establishing a Training Academy would enhance skills in the wholesale sector, raise standards and promote wholesale as a viable career path:
“This is about creating a highly trained wholesale and distribution workforce in Scotland, where staff aren’t just box-shifters but skilled people who will be our future leaders. This is our competitive advantage and the centrepiece of SWA’s vision. It’s also our biggest return on investment, bringing in SWA-accredited apprenticeships, a redesigned mentoring programme and using technology to provide a modern academy that transforms the training process.”
“Our vision is about standing for everything great in wholesale, protecting our industry and our members’ voices, providing network opportunities and placing our people at the heart of everything we do to build a stronger, well connected Scottish wholesale industry, where food and drink distributors unite with one voice.”
Julie Dunn, SWA president and operations director of Lanarkshire-based Dunns Food and Drinks, urged members – wholesalers and suppliers – to get more involved in shaping the SWA’s strategic vision. Dunn said the core principles of collaboration, consultation and communication would ensure that members, their interests, needs and future success were protected under membership of the SWA. But she warned that members must get involved with the association to help it stay strong and move forward.
The conference also heard from leading wholesale figures Dawood Pervez, MD of Bestway Wholesale, Colin McLean, Chief Executive of Dundee-based Spar wholesaler CJ Lang, Iain McPherson, regional MD (Scotland), Matthew Clark and Chieh Huang, Chief Executive of US online wholesaler Boxed. Other speakers included Paul Miller, co-founder and chief executive of Fife-based distillery and brewery Eden Mill, Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) and Josh Clifton, commercial innovation manager of industry research and insights specialist HIM.
The SWA sits on the new national board overseeing delivery of the plan to boost food tourism in Scotland by £1 billion. They also work with key stakeholders to help deliver Ambition 2030, the Scottish Government-supported initiative to double Scotland’s food and drink turnover to £30 billion by 2030.
Another key component of the SWA’s work is collaborating with other trade associations and stakeholders. Four groups the SWA works with attended the conference, Scotland Food & Drink, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) and the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD).
The conference also featured a Producers’ Exhibition, in collaboration with Scotland Food & Drink. Part of the SWA’s conference initiative Keeping Scotland Local, the exhibition brought local producers and suppliers together with SWA members’ key buyers, decision-makers and owners.