It’s been a full year of commentators such as myself referring to the proposed merger of Booker and Tesco, but with the deal now done I can at last start referring to it as a single company.
Last week’s shareholder vote and subsequent completion of the deal immediately launches Tesco into the independent space – as well as being the independent retailer’s biggest single competitor, it is now its biggest single supplier as well. To many, myself included, that still sounds a little surreal, but for those retailers who have already committed themselves to working with Booker for the medium to long term, it sounds exciting.
The financial merger and competition body clearance was correctly and painstakingly handled, as you might expect for a transformational £3.9bn deal. But now the action moves from the dry worlds of the City and the office of the regulators and into the thousands of small businesses, both retail and catering, who have been waiting patiently for the potential to become reality with better products, better prices and more support when it is needed.
Until now, it has been “business as usual” in the Booker estate. But now the real work needs to begin, plans put into action and the potential to be delivered to customers. The biggest, and still most surprising, deal in the history of the independent retail industry has just happened, but rather than it being just a payday for the City, it needs to be a launchpad for a more profitable and competitive future for the thousands of small businesses that depend on Booker to be a strong, stable and effective partner.