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.