As Executive Director of the Scottish Wholesale Association, Kate Salmon is responsible for the operation of an important organisation in the convenience industry, and with the SWA in the midst of a hectic period, SLR thought it was time to catch up with her.
It’s been a great summer, Kate – have your members being reporting a successful season?
This is a challenging time for our industry but our members are upbeat. Festival time is always a big opportunity for members in and around Edinburgh but generally speaking there’s a lot of innovation going on. In Wick, for example, Sutherland Brothers has launched a new drinks division, Strathnaver and Wm Yule in Kirkcaldy has recently launched an excellent new website. The joint c-store venture between JW Filshill and the Clydebank Co-op launches this month so it’s all extremely positive and actually quite exciting.
The 2014 SWA Achievers is under way already, what is planned for next year’s event?
Well, we’re hugely excited about Achievers 2014. Achievers has been running for over 10 years now so you have to keep things interesting. We’ve been working closely with our sponsors to ensure that the judging criteria are fair and transparent and, crucially, relevant – not all wholesalers offer the same services so we have to factor that in.
And there’s a new look to the judging panel this year?
I thought you might ask about that! Yes, We’ve got some new independent judges on board, including SLR Editor Antony Begley, who will bring a different perspective to the proceedings and help freshen things up.
You’ve also got a new President in Asim Sarwar – are you excited by his plans?
Asim is our youngest ever President and is bringing a new dynamic to the SWA. As a young man, he is extremely enthusiastic about technology and social media – we’re already quite prolific Tweeters but Asim is keen for us to make even more use of social media in the future. He is settling well into the role and already working closely with me on our plans for next year’s conference.
How is the mentoring programme progressing?
Our Mentoring Programme is progressing exceptionally well. In fact, we couldn’t be more delighted with it. The participants – mentees and mentors – are being challenged by the process.
What have the mentees gained from their experience?
This is just one example, but Stuart Harrison, Senior Grocery buyer at JW Filshill who is being mentored by Scott MacDonald, formerly of ABInBev, says his confidence has grown and he has changed the way he approaches his job. We’ve also got three new mentees joining the programme.
The SWA has been keen to back local products, how important is this?
Very important, particularly when the multiples are upping the ante when it comes to local sourcing. For c-stores, stocking more local and Scottish lines gives them a point of difference and a competitive edge. What’s more, consumers are expecting to find more local products.
There’s also the well-received tobacco display app, you must be pleased with its success?
Absolutely. The Fingertip Guide to the New Tobacco Display Laws is an important guide and the fact that it can now be accessed at any time via the new app gives busy retailers and wholesalers yet another tool to help them make the right decisions and comply with the legislation which, as we all know, can be extremely cumbersome and confusing.
With so much going on, when you stop to catch your breath, what do you like to do?
Like everyone else, I’ve been making the most of the great summer weather this year and love having a barbecue in the garden. I also spend a lot of time with friends and familes and am just back from fantastic girls’ weekend to Dublin.