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UK wholesalers urged to take the lead

Updated: 13/10/2008

Source: FRESHINFO Sun 12 Oct 08

Don_ DarnallWholesale market authorities have been urged to become leaders and take the sector forward in the changing UK grocery market.

Wholesale market authorities have been urged to become leaders rather than managers if they are to take the sector forward and find a new role for it in the changing grocery market.

Representatives at the World Union of Wholesale Marketers congress last week were warned that attitudes will have to change to make the most of the opportunities in the sector.

Candid confessions about mistakes made at management level helped to fuel the discussion.

Donald Darnall, former WUWM chairman and managing director of the Maryland Food Center Authority, Baltimore, urged market operators to be more proactive, rather than reactive. He said: “We often refer to ourselves as market managers, but in fact we need to be leaders. A manager is task-oriented, but leaders are strategic thinkers and visionaries with long-term goals.

“Management is risk-oriented, but leaders understand risks and are willing to take them.

“The goal of WUWM is to get us to think as market leaders.”

Darnall is keen for WUWM members, each at different stages of development, to learn from the mistakes made by longer-established markets. “One of the biggest mistakes we made in managing our market is we put too much emphasis on what traders wanted and we failed to identify what suppliers and customers needed,” he admitted.

“If we had been more pro-active, we would have been in a much better position. We failed the retail and the wholesale industry because we did not keep up with the changes and we did not invite them to the table to see how we could be better."

“We are now in a reactive mode and we have to tell our traders why they have lost business.”

Jean-Paul Auguste, chairman of GroupeGeraud, instructed market managers to “anticipate and adapt” to keep the sector alive. He said: “We do not want to end up in a situation like the US where farmers’ markets are the way forward and we have to create a new market scheme. In France and in the UK, we are losing market traders and they are not being replaced by new ones.

“Our business is not like any other – we are between two levels and sometimes we ask too much. Leadership is badly needed in our business, as is a strategy…

“We have to invest time and effort in surveys to convince governments that markets are a tool for regeneration.”

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