99 not out!

Pete Cheema at SGF Conference

Last month saw the Scottish Grocers’ Federation host its 99th annual conference with a packed audience and a full agenda. SLR was there to see the industry gather.

by Antony Begley

With just months to go until the Scottish Grocers’ Federation’s landmark centenary year, the annual SGF conference provided the perfect opportunity for representatives from right across the local retailing industry to gather and take stock of what is an increasingly fast-paced sector. Indeed, the theme of this year’s Conference was ‘Reformulation’ – in its widest possible sense.

Hosted between RBS’s global HQ in Gogarburn and the plush Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street in Edinburgh, the event drew a packed audience from every corner of the sector including retailers, wholesalers, suppliers and industry bodies.

The format was familiar to regular attendees with a blend of on-stage presentations, exhibition space, focused breakout sessions and a gala dinner at The Balmoral.

The opening day saw the Scottish Government’s Head of Health Improvement Daniel Kleinberg present the Government’s position on the challenges it sees ahead in tackling obesity and unhealthy eating among Scots, and the role that the Government anticipates local retailers, wholesalers and suppliers playing in joining that battle.

Suppliers Charles Morrish of Muller Milk & Ingredients and Andy Topham of AB-InBev then outlined the improvements that their businesses are making to help introduce an extended range of healthier products, backed by very significant investment.

The clear message was that this is an industry-wide challenge that will require all stakeholders to work together to find workable solutions.

A retailer panel followed with Chris Gallacher of Scotfresh, Dan Brown of Giacopazzi’s Kinross and Mark Robinson of Robinson & Morrison on Shetland discuss the morning’s presentations and take questions from the audience.

Lunch and another wander around the exhibition area was followed by a series of four breakout sessions hosted by Camelot, Mars, Paterson Arran and the Tobacco Manufacturers Alliance before it was off to The Balmoral for dinner.

A lively evening was capped by a fascinating and highly emotional presentation from Scottish World Champion Wheelchair Racer Samantha Kinghorn who held the audience in awed silence with tales of the horrific accident that saw her lose the use of her legs but how she fought back to become one of the most successful athletes in Scottish history.

The following morning saw the audience return to Gogarburn for a morning of presentations from a big-hitting list of speakers including: Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy & Connectivity; Daniel Johnson MSP; David Mundell MP; Secretary of State for Scotland; and Sir Tom Farmer.

Ewing announced a £250,000 fund to help local retailers in Scotland enhance their food to go operations while Daniel Johnson outlined his plans to drive new legislation offering far greater protection for shopworkers against violence and intimidation.

The calibre of speaker at the event reflects the esteem and regard in which the SGF is held in the corridors of power these days and bodes well for the future of our industry and for having our voices heard at the top table.

The event also served to set the tone for the Federation’s historic centenary conference next year and plans are already underway for an extra special Conference. It should be one not to miss.

View the conference highlights