It’s a key lesson for business, and arguably for life in general, that nobody should outstay their welcome. Nevertheless, Colin Graves’ exit from Costcutter last week, 26 years after founding the group, still seems like it has come too soon.
Of course we all knew that it would happen one day, and the early completion of the purchase of Costcutter by Bibby Line Group last year undoubtedly brought forward Graves’ exit date. But despite not having equity in the business any more, he retained all his passion for independent retailing, tough negotiation and striking innovative business deals, skills that would have been very useful for the group as it enters the key stages of devising a new supply deal for its retail members, whether it renews its contract with Nisa or seeks an alternative. I know many retailers who will be sorry to see him go.
But any symbol group, particularly one the size of Costcutter, has to be bigger than one man, and the staff that remain in York have plenty of skills and experience to help members develop their businesses, not to mention taking the group into a completely new phase by acquiring and developing company-owned stores and, just possibly, wholesale operations. I hope that the new regime will not forget that the Costcutter empire has been built to date by working with, and for, progressive independent retailers.
Having spoken to Colin this week, I am in no doubt that he is not ready to retire just yet, and that in itself raises intriguing possibilities of what his future role in the industry might be.
Colin could never be described as being shy and retiring, and has probably had more heated discussions in the past year than most of us will have in a lifetime. But he was always his own man, and it is typical of him that he went out on his own terms, without sentimentality, on a point of principle. We wish him all the best for the future.