STRIVING for best practice and learning from others will help strengthen the wholesale industry and build respect from suppliers.

George Benson, president of the Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA), also believes that current levels - and standards - of training within the industry must be extended and improved if wholesalers want to attract quality people.

"Our industry continually strives towards best practice in distribution, administration, customer service and other key areas of business yet without good people who are inspired and motivated we will not remain ahead of the game," he said.

"That's why training is so important. Many of our members do prioritise training but I want to take it to the next level in order to showcase the wholesale industry as one offering a range of exciting and rewarding career opportunities."

The forthcoming SWA Annual Conference, taking place at Crieff Hydro in June, will feature prominently throughout the event, with a high-profile line-up of speakers - including Charles Wilson, chief executive of Booker, Alex Fisher, managing director of catering giant 3663, Debbie Robinson, Spar UK's managing director and the US-based industry guru, Tom Kuzio - all touching on the importance of training within the industry.

Themed 'Ahead of the Game', the conference will stage two business sessions, both highlighting the challenges facing members and the wider wholesale industry over the coming year.

Members will also have a unique opportunity to participate in a Q&A session with principals from DCS Europe, one of Europe's largest health and beauty businesses and the official UK sales and distribution company for leading blue-chips including Procter & Gamble, Gillette, Unilever and SC Johnson.

Benson said: "Our industry is robust and performing well in these times of austerity but it is clear that training is the key to growth and prosperity. We have the right people but we need more of the right people - people with the right attitude and skills to create a truly world-class industry."

This year, for the first time at an SWA conference, members will be able to take advantage of a series of HR Surgeries facilitated by the SWA's training partner, 121 HR Solutions. A key benefit of SWA membership is support from 121 HR Solutions in respect of human resources and employment law advice.

Also for the first time at an SWA conference, a dedicated area will be made available to allow wholesalers to meet with suppliers on a one-to-one basis. "This is another new development for the Association," explained Benson.

"We know that individual wholesalers make their own arrangements to meet with suppliers during the course of the weekend so we want to make this as easy as possible for them - and, hopefully, encourage others to follow suit."

Other influential speakers at the 2012 conference include: Asim Sarwar, managing director of United Wholesale (Scotland), the winner of Best Cash & Carry Depot and Best Retailer Development Programme in the 2012 Scottish Wholesale Achievers awards initiative; Martin Williams, managing director of leading SWA member, Landmark Wholesale; and Jason Wouhra, director and company secretary of West Midlands-based East End Foods.

In addition, Scott Brady, the Association's independent lobbyist and consultant, will discuss the importance of lobbying and some of the SWA's recent activity - and successes and challenges - in this all-important area.

Meanwhile, Jonathon Rons, client director of the respected industry research agency, him!, will explore growth and opportunities for wholesalers and suppliers alike north of the Border.

Suppliers addressing the conference include:

  • Colin Smith, commercial director, Müller UK
  • Marcus Freer, sales director, SHS Sales & Marketing (GB)
  • Steve Kitching, managing director, Cott Beverages
  • Karen Salters, joint managing director, Beverage Brands

Places at the conference, taking place at Crieff Hydro in Perthshire from 14-17 June, are still available.

Please direct all enquiries about the conference to Kate Salmon or Margaret Wilson on 0131 556 8753, or by email at: You can also find a booking form for suppliers here.