In the face of disobliging banks, arduous legislation, and increased competition from the multiples, a strong wholesale sector could be the independent retail trade's most supportive ally, Booker chief executive Charles Wilson has said.

Speaking at the Federation of Wholesale Distributors' annual conference, Wilson said that he could not think of "a single piece of legislation that had improved the lot of independent retailers in the past 12 months".

He urged the new government to boost bank lending, as the previous government's attempts had come to nothing.

"Most independent retailers will describe the service provided to them by the banks as terrible," he said. "Fortunately, independent retailers are very canny and know how to use their cash well. That's why you don't see many independent retailers running into trouble like Woolworths did," he added.

Wilson added that the wholesale and manufacturing trades could also do more to support local retailers. "Not enough is being done to get the message out to shoppers that smaller shops can mean smaller bills," he said.

With sales enjoying good year-on-year increases, Booker's main priority would be providing greater support for its members, he said. "Booker is now a sustainable business. We are low risk and high growth. This means all our energy will now go into making our customers more sustainable," he said.

The company is trialling a reverse supply chain for plastic, card and film, which will help reduce retailers' waste disposal bills, and its recycling rates had also increased by 13% in the past year. "Independent retailers are great at being green, but they don't shout loudly enough about it. We'll help them do that, too."

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