This decade has probably been the most turbulent the wholesale sector has ever faced with Covid, Brexit, inflation and external shocks everywhere from Ukraine to the escalating climate crisis. Looking ahead to 2024, and its challenges and opportunities, if we are being optimistic we could hope it will be the year of normality, or at least stability.

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The challenges we know about already: food price inflation, price wars, political turmoil in an election year, and ongoing global unrest having a knock-on impact on the supply chain. We’ve been facing into them for the majority of the 2020s and have built resilience into day-to-day operations.

For suppliers, the opportunities in wholesale can be summed up in three words: Distribution, versatility, partnership. As FWD chairman Dawood Pervez put it earlier this year: “Investment in this channel by suppliers has never been more important for brands, as brand-focused wholesalers and their customers together form the largest distribution infrastructure in the UK.”

And like independent retailers, wholesalers are agile and ready to take advantage of trends to help drive sales. We are a nimble sector able quickly to bend to consumer needs, for example around the cost of living.

That flexibility makes wholesale the perfect partner for big brands and small retailers alike. With the right investment and proposition in wholesale, brands can promote, and engage online and with digital and social media platforms, or directly with the thousands of entrepreneurial business owners wholesalers supply.

So what support do we need to ensure retailers are profitable? From suppliers partnership is key here. We know prices will rise, but signposting those rises, keeping them fair and equitable, and not expect retailers to compromise margin is the way to build trust. Support the channel and maximise investment with packs, promotions and PMPs.

The message is clear for 2024: wholesale is a huge, resilient and flexible market, and a massive opportunity for brands. Let’s work together to make it the year of the independent.