David Rees: Editor's comment

All posts from: November 2017

A future of co-operation

Posted by: David Rees Mon, 13 Nov 2017

So the votes have been counted, and Nisa members have supported the idea of being taken over by the Co-operative Group.

With more than 80% of shareholders and 75.8% of the share capital in favour of the transaction, the result looks fairly overwhelming, but with a 75% threshold required it was, in fact, a close-run thing.

The Co-op takeover was a ‘Brexit’ vote for Nisa – polarising and divisive. The atmosphere within the group had become increasingly toxic as the vote neared – between members and the Co-op, members and the Board and, on a few very unfortunate occasions, between member and member. And it was not easy for head office staff either, trying to keep the show on the road against this disruptive backdrop. But the disruptive elements are now revealed to be in the minority and, with the vote now decided, the key thing is for everyone in the group to put all this behind them and move on to a positive new future with the Co-op.

Even 17 months after the national Brexit vote, very little appears to have been done about identifying the strengths and weaknesses of our economy, and the new opportunities that leaving Europe might present – or if it has been done, it hasn’t been widely shared with employers, small businesses and other operators who are in a position to make the most of these opportunities.

Nisa must not make the same mistake with its own Brexit vote. Granted, the acquisition requires CMA approval and no integration work can begin until that is given, but there is still a clear framework and direction that should follow from the acquisition vote.

Nisa retailers will still need assurances about the many unanswered questions that arose during the bid process, but there is no time to be wasted on could-haves and should-haves – it should be straight back to work and looking ahead, rather than dwelling on the past. The future, while not certain, is at least looking more secure with a strong partner to supply fresh food, own label and major branded lines.

Convenience is under pressure, and maybe nobody is making the money from it that they once were, but it is still one of the strongest areas of grocery retail. And there are reasons to believe that it will continue to be so as people’s lives grow ever-busier, and quick solutions and instant gratification become more important to them.

The Co-op understands this very well and has both scale and the offer to be among the winners, and Nisa members now have the opportunity to share in the organisation’s success.

Time marches on

Posted by: David Rees Wed, 1 Nov 2017

Just as the clocks go back to remind us that we are nearing the end of the calendar year, the major changes in the industry that have been anticipated throughout 2017 are finally reaching their end-game. As I write this, the CMA is putting the finishing touches to its provisional findings on the Tesco-Booker merger, Nisa members are considering the takeover proposal by the Co-op, and Costcutter and Bestway are talking to each other and who knows what else as well.

Consolidation in the industry and the involvement of the grocery multiples has been a talking point all year, but up to this point nothing has actually happened. However, in the next two to three weeks all should become clear, or clearer at least.

The findings of the CMA are central to all of this. The wave of change and consolidation, although arguably overdue, was kicked-off by the proposed Booker-Tesco merger, and the CMA needs to reveal its approval or new conditions for this before Booker and, crucially, Tesco shareholders vote on it.

To some extent, Co-op and Nisa are doing it the other way round, by seeking shareholder approval first and then taking it to the CMA, but, by then, the competition authorities should have a good handle on what they think a merger across the supermarket and wholesale channels could mean for shoppers.
So we must continue to wait a little longer. But the industry’s operating model for the next few years is likely to be revealed within the next few weeks.

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