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New Fed committee chairs lay out plans to help members

Plans include grants for struggling stores, new idea-sharing local events and pushing governments to fund CCTV upgrades

Retailers newly elected to chair the Fed’s key committees have outlined the steps they plan to take to improve members’ stores.

The trade group announced the chairs and members for each of the 13 subcommittees earlier this month, with groups responsible for organising issues ranging from Fed staff management to finding new business deals.

Speaking to Better Retailing, chairs of the groups outlined their plans, including grants for struggling stores, new idea-sharing local events, pushing governments to fund CCTV upgrades and maximising sales of newspapers and magazines.

Fed rep visits

Immediate past national president Jason Birks is to chair the Fed’s ‘field ops’ committee, a continuation of years of involvement with the group.

While describing the year ahead as “business as usual”, he pledged that all members will receive at least one store visit and one phone call from their member development executive to assess how the Fed can help them.

While much of the field team’s support will be dedicated to recruiting members, this will also benefit existing Fed retailers.

Birks said: “The changes we are making include having a larger presence at events and in cash and carries, and we are also trialling retailer brunch clubs. These are quick meetings for members and non-members with the aim of getting together and sharing ideas, and with the potential for trade partners to share advice as well.

“It’s exactly what we’ve been asked for – small events where people can come away with one or two ideas for their businesses. If it works, we’ll be rolling them out everywhere.”

News and mags

Newly appointed news-and-contact-centre chair Vince Malone is no stranger to the ups and downs of the newstrade. He grew his rounds during the pandemic, but more recently spent a Saturday buying copies of the Guardian from rival stores to fulfil his rounds due to wholesaler errors.

Asked about his hopes for the committee, he told Better Retailing: “We’re really lucky to have committee members representing every nation in the UK. The year for me is about the Fed recognising how important the newstrade is to so many members. I want the Fed to show the opportunities that are to be had in this category to help members make more money.

“We will still campaign, and take publishers and wholesalers to task, and we will still highlight member issues and help resolve late deliveries, missing titles and credits.

“We will also recognise that carriage charges aren’t going down and percentage margins aren’t going up, so we need to find more opportunities within the category.”

Politics

Scottish retailer, Fed national deputy vice president and local councillor Mo Razzaq landed responsibility for pushing politicians to address the challenges members face. As chair of political engagement, Razzaq is scheduled to attend three parliamentary events this week.

Outlining key areas he’s looking for the Fed to focus on, he told Better Retailing: “Front and centre is our call for stores to be able to receive retail crime security grant funding. On social media this week, we’ve seen an example of an influencer going into a newsagent and throwing stock off the shelves, trying to degrade the shop owner.

“Conversely, in a CCTV clip, I’ve seen a retailer fighting off a gunman, only to then be attacked with a knife. Our message will be that retailers shouldn’t be expected to deal with these type of incidents alone.

“Business rates are second, with the revaluations more stores are being dragged over the thresholds and into paying rates. Combined with energy costs, it’s an unsustainable combination, and we’ll be fighting for stores stuck in high-energy tariffs to be allowed to exit contracts and sign new deals.”

Support for struggling stores

The Fed has money available to those who need it. The challenge Andrew Taylor faces as chair of the Benefits & Hardship Fund committee is convincing members to use the available support.

The Hull-based retailer told Better Retailing: “We need to make sure every member knows that help is out there, it’s one of the perks they pay for with the membership. We can give financial support for those dealing with illness or for paper boys and girls who have bikes damaged or stolen.

“There’s around £40,000 left in the hardship fund to give out in grants for those still affected by the pandemic. We’ll be as flexible as we can, so applications that show continuing effects of the pandemic, such as those still finding trade difficult, will be considered.

“It’s important members know there is only three of us on the committee who decide on applications for support, so members can have confidence their privacy will be respected.”

The Fed committee chairs

The full list of the new Fed committee chairs chosen is:

  • Muntazir Dipoti – HR and customer relationship management
  • Serge Khunkun – national finance
  • Andrew Taylor – Benefits & Hardship Fund
  • Sunder Sandher – business development
  • Hetal Patel – communications
  • Jason Birks – field ops
  • Hussan Lal – IT & technology
  • Mo Razzaq – marketing and political engagement
  • Martin Ward – membership services
  • Vince Malone – news and contact centre
  • Anant Patel – recruitment and retention

Read more the Fed news

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