David Rees: Editor's comment

All posts from: March 2018

A choice-driven future

Posted by: David Rees Wed, 21 Mar 2018

Congratulations go to Paul Gardner and the team at Budgens of Islington, London, on being named Convenience Retailer of the Year at the 2018 Convenience Retail Awards last week.

It was a difficult decision, as it always is, but I’m not saying that to soften the blow for all the other entrants; I’m saying that because there are a lot of fantastic convenience stores out there, and choosing between them is genuinely difficult. All of those who entered, and particularly those who were represented as finalists on Thursday night, can be regarded as successful stores, and all are fully deserving of recognition from their peers.

If there is a common thread that runs through all of our main winners, it is that they have forged their own individual identities in the markets in which they operate. The advice and support of their wholesalers and symbol groups is an important factor in their success, but just as important is the ability to adapt that to local circumstances and surroundings. All of our winners are innovative, unconventional even, with a focus on their own unique customer base and the way that their customers want to shop.

In my view this creates the most reliable template for the future. Customers have a choice in where and even how they shop, and are more inclined to exercise their own personal choices than ever before, so success is going to be all about being responsive to shopper needs while still maintaining high standards. Last week’s winners truly embody that spirit, and point the way ahead for the industry.

A launch into space

Posted by: David Rees Tue, 6 Mar 2018

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.

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