The Fed’s incoming national president, Muntazir Dipoti, has pledged to use his decades of retail experience to “modernise” the Fed, in a bid to boost recruitment and improve membership value through further partnerships.
The owner of Todmorden News in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, is gearing up to take the helm from Jason Birks at the trade body’s annual conference on 13-14 June in Harrogate.
Ahead of the event, Dipoti sat down with Better Retailing to discuss how his 35-year career in independent retail has helped prepare him for the role.
“I’ve worked in retail since I was 13 years old,” he said. “Apart from a gap working in finance, the rest has been devoted to convenience. Even when I was out of it, I helped people who had fallen behind with their mortgages.
“I’ve always got satisfaction from helping people, and that’s always been central to what I’ve done and enjoy doing. The Fed is the same. It’s all about helping members.”
When asked what first spurred him on to get involved with the trade body at a leadership level, Dipoti explained: “I was having some issues as a retailer myself, and speaking candidly, I feel like I didn’t get the right support, and felt very isolated as a result.
“This was when I first got involved in my branch as I wanted to be able to improve my situation. It was important for me that no other retailer ever suffered the way I did. The more I did it, the more I enjoyed it.
“I never thought I’d reach national level, but after so much encouragement from others, I took the plunge. I wanted to be the person to bring change and bring the younger generation to the forefront.”
Dipoti will be one of the youngest national presidents in the Fed’s 104-year history.
He reinforced the need to “modernise”, while protecting its “heritage” to ensure it continues for another 100 years.
“We need to move the Fed into the direction where it is evolving so it can survive,” he said. “The challenges in the retail industry are getting harder and harder, and we need to help retailers adapt their businesses.”
He described recruiting younger retailers as the federation’s biggest “hurdle”. “I understand that change is scary, but we need to adapt,” he explained. “Business is all about taking risks, and hopefully that risk will pay off.
“We have seen quite a few new faces in recent years, which is a good sign, but we need to work on that and be smarter about what we do to encourage more. Younger retailers don’t want to come to meetings and discuss minutes for hours. Instead, they want to come away from meetings with key advice and tips to improve their sales.”
The move marked a shift in a historically defined “challenging” relationship. Dipoti told members to expect more opportunities like this during his term.
“In the past, we’ve battled with PayPoint, but in the past couple of years we’ve had some really productive meetings,” he said. “Now that we’ve married up, the relationship is going from strength to strength, and we’ve managed to secure something fantastic for our members.
“I want to make it worthwhile for retailers to be a member of the Fed, and see value in doing that. I’m trying to improve partnerships, and I’m already having conversations to make that happen.”
While looking for new opportunities, he also pledged to continue discussions with news publishers and wholesalers to secure better terms and service for retailers.
Dipoti stressed that he is “excited” to “make change for the future”. He added: “We need to forget what’s happened in the past, and move on. I can’t make that happen by myself, so it’s all about working together. Change is always difficult, but it needs to happen.”
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