Booker boss sounds internet alarm at packed SGF Summit

Charles Wilson and Pete Cheema

Charles Wilson (pictured left, with Pete Cheema), CEO of Booker Wholesale, has given the keynote address to this year’s SGF Business Summit.

The appearance of such a high-profile industry figure – and the recent announcement on the proposed merger with Tesco – ensured a big attendance as almost 200 delegates packed the Inchyra Grange Hotel in Falkirk. The theme of the Summit was the impact of technology on retail but, as Wilson himself readily admitted, it was inevitable that the audience would want his views on the background to and potential impact of the proposed merger.

His message was clear and consistent: the key driver for both Tesco and Booker was the potential for growth in a highly competitive market. The synergies and strategic fit that both parties brought to the table would drive growth, ensure efficiencies across the supply chain, deliver a better service to retailers and ultimately improve the offer to consumers. The key aim was to optimise efficiencies and ensure that there was no waste across the supply chain.

During a lively panel discussion, it was put to the Booker CEO that the merger would strengthen the hand of a large supermarket which had in reality been trying to drive independent retailers out of the market. Wilson responded strongly by saying that this was missing the point: anyone who could analyse the numbers could see that the real threat now and in the future would come from companies like Amazon and their internet-based grocery offer.

Commenting on the Summit, Charles Wilson said: “I was delighted to attend the SGF Summit. The big turnout highlighted how successful SGF has become in putting on events which provide their members with real value and something tangible to take back to the business.”

The event also saw an excellent presentation from Booker retailer Mandeep Singh from Sheffield. He showed how being proactive on social media can boost both sales and footfall and concluded strongly that “technology is the best weapon we have for fighting back”.

Another key speaker was Keith Brown MSP, Scottish government Secretary for the Economy. Brown reiterated his pledge to work with SGF and support the Federation’s Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Independent Convenience Stores.

SGF Chief Executive Pete Cheema commented: “We received outstanding support for our event from both Booker and Coca-Cola and this helped to ensure its success. Having Charles Wilson on the programme undoubtedly helped to ensure that this was one of our best attended events. Delegates got to hear at first-hand about the Tesco merger – the biggest development in our industry for decades. We also saw how technology can help retailers to take advantage of changing shopping behaviour and stay competitive.”