The Today’s Group’s youngest ever chairman Simon Hannah on why the wholesale sector needs collaboration more than ever.

The start of a new year is always a time for reflection and planning ahead, and at JW Filshill and three months in, we are really upbeat about 2017.

We certainly believe that the wholesale industry has a positive vibe about it. Indeed, Scottish Wholesale Achievers, the Scottish Wholesale Association’s annual awards event in Edinburgh in February, brought together all sectors of industry for an evening of celebration and networking. This was the 15th year of Achievers, and the fact it is still going strong is testament to the nature of the trade in Scotland – we want to learn from each other and share best practice.

Simon Hannah is MD of JW Filshill, and the chairman of the Today’s Group.

While sharing best practice and collaborating is something we do very well as an industry in Scotland, my colleagues south of the border and in Ireland are also working hard in this respect. It’s great to see what others are doing and, as a member of the Today’s Group, I am very aware that my colleagues are pushing forward with innovations and ambitious developments within their own businesses.

Filshill’s plans for 2017 include developing our digital technology platform to help attract new retailers to our KeyStore stable, and further engaging with the shoppers within communities where the local convenience store is central to everything that goes on. Our new KeyStore More fascia is attracting considerable interest, and we believe it will shake up the convenience sector by providing another symbol option for retailers and more choice for consumers. Its official launch is imminent.

We must ensure that our industry remains resilient and profitable – and innovations like the ones I have mentioned, plus those being pushed forward by other retailers across the UK – will keep us robust and vibrant. The coming months will present us with challenges and opportunities – this will never change as there is always something new and different for us to navigate around.

Uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the global uncertainty created by recent events in the USA will affect wholesalers and retailers as well as our suppliers and, of course, the wider business community. There will be implications across many different spheres of life, but we will strive to deal with all the challenges we face in the best way we can.

That is why I have always believed that it is a good idea to see first-hand what your colleagues are doing and how they operate and, as chairman of Today’s, I will have the opportunity to do just that – visit as many members as I can in order to understand and learn what we can do as a group to help our members. I have no doubt that I will pick up a lot of great ideas that might work within my own business.

At Today’s – and other groups – we are fortunate to have such a diverse range of members supporting the UK’s independent retailers, caterers and on-trade operators. Some are big and some are small but size isn’t everything – some of our smallest wholesalers are doing some exceptional and innovative work that the big players can take inspiration from.

Again, it comes down to collaboration, so get involved with your trade association, and get behind your group. Today’s is fortunate in that it has a terrific blend of youthful energy and experience around the table. This allows us to discuss new approaches and solutions that perhaps we have not previously considered. I will be the Today’s Group’s youngest-ever chairman, and I am relishing the challenge. It is about taking these diverse skills from around the table and blending them into a joint strategy to enhance best practice within all of our businesses.

The most successful wholesalers are those which are flexible, forward-thinking and open to new ideas, as well as being prepared to take the occasional risk. It is about investing in our people, and forging even stronger relationships with our suppliers. It’s about networking and listening to the views of others in a trade that never stays still. This is an exciting time to be a wholesaler.

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Simon Hannah is the managing director of Glasgow-based delivered wholesaler and cash & carry JW Filshill.


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