That was the message from the wholesale trade group’s president, Asim Sarwar, at the annual SWA conference last month.
Addressing delegates at the event, which was held at Crieff Hydro in Perthshire, Sarwar outlined a new joint initiative between the SWA and the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF), which has seen the groups create a single point of contact for retailers and wholesalers with concerns about suspected illegal activity or dishonest practices.
The trade bodies worked closely with HMRC and its illicit alcohol task force to set up the ‘hub’, which Sarwar said will ensure any intelligence goes directly to the task force.
People are the lifeblood of our industry so we must do our best to improve skills.
“This is one of the big issues on which we will make better progress through collaboration, so we’re delighted to announce that we have taken a significant step forward in combating illicit alcohol trade in Scotland,” said the SWA president.
“Creating a single email point of contact in Scotland will ensure that concerns will be forwarded to the task force, and be prioritised appropriately.
“This is major progress for our industry.”
Collaborations like this are one of the “pillars” of the SWA, said Sarwar, who also highlighted the association’s “great relationship” with the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA).
Beyond the SWA’s work with other trade organisations and its lobbying activity, Sarwar also highlighted its mentoring programme, which aims to improve skills and nurture emerging talent within the Scottish wholesale industry. The conference heard from two of its mentees – Stuart Harrison from JW Filshill and Paul Dickson from Booker – as well as mentor Graham Benson.
Sarwar said the SWA’s mentoring programme is “so important”.
“I applaud my predecessor George Benson for his foresight in launching this hugely successful initiative,” said Sarwar.
“People are the lifeblood of our industry and if we want wholesale to be a world-class industry then we must all do our best to improve skills and nurture emerging talent – that is why training is also one of the SWA’s pillars.”
Sarwar also spoke about the SWA’s Achievers awards, saying it, like the organisation’s training programme, “exists to promote professionalism and excellence” across the industry. He also highlighted recent developments and investment by wholesale firms, including Sutherland Brothers, JW Filshill, Dunns Food & Drinks, his own firm United Wholesale (Scotland) and Bestway Batleys (see page 36).
“We know that business is tough; the economy remains volatile yet there are shoots of recovery so the situation is improving although it does remain challenging,” he said.
“We don’t know what will happen at the polls on September 18 but our lobbying work will continue regardless of the outcome.”