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Annual Conference 2021 Summary

The NFRN’s Annual Conference took place on 4-6 October 2021 at the Bournemouth International Centre in Bournemouth.

Day One

On the first morning of the NFRN Annual Conference 2021, Stuart Reddish addressed the audience and welcomed the delegates from all over the UK to the Bournemouth International Centre.

Stuart ran through some of the successes that the Federation has experienced during his presidency.

He said: “One of my proudest moments was hosting a luncheon at The Ritz Hotel in London for the Shop Local, Shop Little Heroes Awards. The three winners will go on to the NFRN Awards in January, where the overall winner will receive a fantastic prize.

“Unfortunately, we lost members and friends from Covid. In particular we lost Owen Church, Peter Seaman and Peter Stead, and we should recognise their contributions to the NFRN.”

Throughout the rest of the first day, delegates heard and saw presentations from NFRN partners The Retail Mutual and Boost Drinks, as well as from department heads from News, Business Development and Facilities and Special Projects.

Day Two

The main topic of the second day of the Annual Conference was a proposed change to the branding of the organisation.

Gill Burgess, of branding consultancy revolution, gave a presentation with examples of four different options for a new logo and strapline, designed to incorporate the organisation’s heritage with a more modern style.

After much discussion, an amended rule change was proposed by newly-elected national deputy vice president Mo Razzaq, requesting delegates to agree to allowing the use of the name ‘The Fed’, with ‘Federation of Independent Retailers’ as a strapline for marketing and promotional communications purposes.

Delegates were reassured that the registered name of NFRN would remain in place and it was just the branding that would change.

The amended motion was overwhelmingly carried, with 80.1% of votes in favour.

Day Three

The main focus of the third and final day of the Annual Conference was the installation of the newly elected National President, national vice president and national deputy vice president.

The retiring national president, Stuart Reddish, handed over the chains of office to Narinder Randhawa before Jason Birks was officially made vice president and Shahid Razzaq was installed as deputy vice president.

The immediate past national vice president, Muntazir Dipoti gave an emotional speech following his narrow defeat in the election for the new National President.

Stuart Reddish also announced the names of two people to be added to the Roll of Honour – longstanding NEC member and former National President Peter Wagg, and the NFRN’s longest serving member of staff, Stephen Burridge.

Thanks were also given to Peter and fellow NEC members Suleman Khonat and Mike Mitchelson, who are all stepping down from the committee after many years of service.

Watch the action from conference

You can now watch all the main speeches and presentations from Annual Conference on our YouTube Channel.


Conference speeches

Read Stuart Reddish’s conference opening speech

Good morning Conference, we finally made it, after no conference last year, I am so delighted to see so many people here today including guests and business partners, I welcome you all to Bournemouth for the 2021 NFRN Annual Conference.  I would like to say a big thank you to James Wilkinson for opening conference.

Who would have thought, two and a half years ago when I was elected by you, as your National President that the world would have changed and to what key part Independent Retailers would play in making sure England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales continued to function.  Independent retailers have come into their own with a fantastic response to serve their communities which was rightly recognised by government and media, the independent sector as a whole were heroes but the NFRN certainly had a fair share of our own, much has been said about the demise of small independent shops moving online which has been greatly exaggerated the NFRN has promoted and will continue to promote independent retailers in the future.

The hardship fund, fantastic support from the district branches, individuals and suppliers and how great it was to be able to help those who need it.  When I set up the fund it generated over £250k which has given us the opportunity to save businesses from closure and to keep businesses out of bankruptcy.

When we launched Local Heroes we had entries from all Districts, their stories were compelling and their self sacrifice supporting their communities and individuals around their stores , I was so proud to host a Luncheon at the Ritz for the final 12, three overall winners were picked and they now go forward to the NFRN awards on January 25th in the Royal Lancaster in London, one of those winners will win an amazing prize, awards entries are still open and application forms are in front of you, please make sure you fill this out.

Unfortunately, we lost members and friends from Covid we lost in particular, Owen Church, Peter Seaman and Peter Stead and we should recognise their contributions to the NFRN.

That’s why this Conference is all about Independent but not alone, in 2019 I stood before you and laid down some key points and objectives, something that I am proud to say, not only have we achieved but excelled in.  I have said on many occasions, I may be the leader, pushed through changes, but without the support on my team and key individuals, it would have been much harder.  (Play the Success Video, sat on Couch)

Now to my District visits, every President fondly talks about visiting the Districts and being one of the National Presidents highlight, I can fully understand why, I have been welcomed, I have met some interesting characters, great debates have taken place and of course eaten far too much food.

But everyone I have met, even if they are not a Stuart Reddish supporter I know they all are dedicated to the NFRN.

Now lets turn to membership growth, never before in the time that I have been with the NFRN have we ever had membership growth, well, we do now, this should not be taken as read, its not by accident, its because we now are one team, one goal.  The field team, the admin team, the MSM’s are all working to this.  We have a compelling offering.

Business Development has put real cash into members tills Booker vouchers, Barclaycard deal, free stock to name just a few, this alone pays for membership.  As we speak Savewell is now part of the NFRN family it has taken years to organise and get through but we now have a very viable buying group to offer our members real key benefits which means even more money given to the retailer.

Politically, we have work to do but we have had some successes, carrier bag levy, Scottish government recognising and making it a crime to assault shop workers, we have a voice with the MP’s and the PCC’s around this country.

News still requires our attention, we still have to deal with late papers, missing credits and an unfair carriage charge, we were successful with the carriage charge freeze, pro rata term and improved restitution, the surprise news that Charles Wilson has taken a stake in Menzies distribution is an opportunity to work together.  Every President tries to do their best to sort out this complex mechanism called News but unfortunately no President, and me included will ever solve this issue fully, it cannot be done, but what we do have to do is work very closely with wholesalers and publishers.

I can assure you, never before has the Federation had stronger ties with both wholesalers and publishers, and for that I am extremely grateful.  We approach them in a different way, we work with them to make sure that we have a foothold and that we have a voice when they are making key decisions.  I was pleased to see that the wholesalers put a freeze on carriage charges which really benefited members but of course there is always more to do. We also need to recognise when they give pro rata terms like the Mail, the Guardian and the Mirror.

Connect which will be renamed the Contact Centre, we have a strengthened team which is now not only focused on in bound calls but also outbound.  Remember those two numbers 0800 1216376 or 07563 024513.

All what we do and all the hard work we do is nothing unless we can successfully communicate to all our members, this is why we have strengthened the communications department to deliver new ways of reaching out to you the member, Anne and Natalie will talk more about this when they present to you later.

The Fed magazine has had a complete overhaul and now I hope you agree its full of great stories, great ideas and keeps you informed of what is happening in your Federation.

Fed Talks / President Talks is a great way to keep you up to date with what is happening on a weekly basis in head office and also covering off breaking news in the industry, please if you are not a subscriber please go to YouTube and hit the subscribe button.

I said that we would sweat the assets when I stood before you as National President and we certainly have done that.  Project awakening went into full swing under the leadership of Martin Ward and we secured Yeoman House and in securing the rest of the assets we will eventually have close to a million pounds in income.  The next three days is your chance to showcase your Federation, and for you to take part in debate and to shape the way forward.  I am sorry to say we still have politics playing with some individuals who clearly have a different agenda but we must not be deterred and we must stick to the plan which you will be presented with over the next few days, it is about change, its about focusing on what is best for this organisation, not the individual.  We will over the course of this conference pick a new NEC, we know that several members of the NEC are going to stand down and I will talk more on that later.

May I ask Nat O’Brien to stand, Nat, I have always valued your council, you have never waivered from the big decisions which have to be taken in the SLT’s and have been a source of knowledge, the Federation owes you great deal of gratitude in the way that you work and the way that you conduct yourself and the way you have continue to bring technology into the NFRN.

Brian has always been there respectful of members and helping the newbies to understand that this is a members organisation despite personal illness Brian has continued to fight for Independent’s  and taken on new roles within the NFRN, we brought in Phil Jaggard and Adrian Page, both with years of expertise that will help shape the federation, thank you to all the SLT’s for their guidance and support.

Now I move on the Angela Swainston, actually Angela has worked for this organisation for 8 years and she has never been to Conference, this is her first, I can’t tell you, she is one of the most organised people I have ever known, she likes to be organised, she likes to get it right and perfect, we are lucky to have you Angela.  Now for the members, the NEC, Finance and Trustees, over this past two and a half years you also have had to extend your roles and run your businesses at the same time as juggling NFRN work, again you should be proud of yourself and what you have all achieved, well done.

Recognising individuals is dangerous as everyone I have mentioned have played a key part but remember, there are some individuals back at the ranch and here today in Conference that have also played a part to make this organisation great again, we have gathered as many staff as possible to attend Conference so they can understand what we do and for you to get to know the staff. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to the NFRN.

Of course there are some individuals that have stood right by me and the NFRN, Martin Ward, Peter Wagg and of course my very close friends now Jason and Monty, thank you for everything that you have done and thank you for your unwavering support.

Everyone has had to embrace change and the NFRN is no exception, the three year plan that was put in place to move out of London and reshape the federation has come to and end.  The five year plan is a road map, this is not any way set in stone, but if we follow this we will succeed in moving  the NFRN forward.  I am humbled to have been able to do the work and to spend the time, without the COO in place this has not in any way stopped the NFRN in driving change but more importantly to move this Federation firmly into members hands to Make money, to save money and make it easier to do business.

So Conference, you are about to embark over the next three day to shape the future of the Federation, you have the ability to make sure when you leave on Wednesday that the Federation is in better shape.  I am proud to say, under my tenure

1 We have membership growth

2 We have record amounts of money from business partners

3 We have a positive budget

4 We have rental income

5 With Booker vouchers we have put real cash in members tills

Remember Conference, you may be independent but you certainly are not alone.

Read Narinder Randhawa's conference acceptance speech

Good Afternoon Conference.

It truly is a privilege to lead such a fantastic organisation until next Conference.

Words cannot express how proud and happy I am to be at the forefront of such passionate, enthusiastic, and committed members. 

I feel honoured and humbled by the faith, trust, and confidence that you have placed in me.

This role brings with it a great sense of responsibility.

This does make me nervous.

As we have heard throughout conference, much has been achieved by my predecessor, Stuart Monty, and Jason, by NEC, by National Council and by the staff.

Together they have ensured that the interests of members are always pursued at all levels and.

I’d like to thank you all for everything you have done over the past two years.

But as well as being slightly nervous I am also excited by this new challenge.  

It is hugely exciting to lead such a fantastic member organisation and I am excited at the prospect of achieving new and beneficial opportunities on your behalf.

To reach this position is not possible without help and support, so I would like to say thanks to a very important collection of people:

To all my friends in my branch

To my district colleagues

To my family and to my shop staff

Without your support and encouragement I would not be standing here today.

So, what are my objectives over the coming months?

First and foremost, I have no intention of rocking the boat.  I want to continue the great work that has already been achieved.

As we heard yesterday, from the business development team and from Barclaycard, we have a great deal on card payments.

And as I said on Monday, we need an equally great banking deal.  We deserve it – so we will carry on knocking on doors. 

It sounds as if it is already ajar

And engage in discussions

After the year we have had we need the feel-good factor.

We are in exceptional times – we are coming out of the dark tunnel of Covid into sunlight.

We need to look after ourselves physically as well as financially.  Let’s get a deal on gyms, on spas, on weekend breaks.

All of these – and the other great benefits we have like Booker vouchers, our energy deals, the legal support – need to be communicated. 

The team are doing a great job, but I feel we need to think outside the box and look at new avenues.

Policy objectives need to be kept in focus and prioritised into three areas.

Most important is tackling retail crime.

We need even more engagement with the government, with police and with police and crime commissioners.

We know what we feel about that police chief from Hampshire who said we as shopkeepers should pay for the rehabilitation of people who steal from us or abuse us.

Pressure must be kept on so everyone is aware that abuse is not part of the job and that more must be done to protect everyone who is involved in retail.

I congratulate Martin Ward on all the hard work he has done with the team on relocating head office to Durham.

However, I have been vigorously reminded that I should have mentioned the person who was instrumental in buying Yeoman House.  By this, I mean Terry Pigg – that great stalwart.

I also support the buying of Bede House. 

I believe that with the support of the team we will carry on the growth of membership.

Covid is still disrupting members’ businesses and health so we must not put the brake on supporting those who need our help.

We need to ensure that the NFRN must always be the first port of call for members wanting help or support, whether that be financial, legal, or sometimes just a sympathetic ear.

The service that Connect offers is second to none.

But when we phone, we can be angry and frustrated – our papers are late, and we are getting grief from our customers. 

We must remain calm and continue to be courteous

We cannot take it out on our Connect team.  They are there to help.

On the news front, we must continue discussions with publishers and wholesalers.  The current model is unsustainable.  The publishers and wholesalers are aware of this and we need to work together to where the future is.

Greater focus will be put on training members to prepare for positions in the Federation and on keeping our standards up

Listening to the presentations from conference we, as independent retailers, have a great future but we must become more competitive and innovative to survive. 

I see the NFRN and Savewell playing an ever-increasing role in this work over the coming year.

With numbers come strength, so it’s in everyone’s interest to give our buying group our full support.

Much work has been done to make the NFRN a more modern organisation and I intend to build upon that.

We need to become a happy family and instal trust and stability even more.

Let’s move forward together.

Nothing worthwhile is easy to come by

But it makes me so proud that the NFRN is an organisation that listens to you – the member. 

Over the coming months I t look forward to visiting all districts and speaking – but more importantly – listening to members to discover exactly what it is needed and wanted from us.

If you – or your branch and district colleagues – have any suggestions on how we can operate more effectively or if you believe that there are different ways in which we can achieve more for our members, then I want to hear from you.

This Federation of ours has a history that goes back more than 100 years.  It is, and always will be, a members’ organisation.

I have said to a previous National President that before you know it, your term will be over so enjoy it.

I have now to be reminded of that same comment.

I intend to hit the ground running and I am sure that I can count on your support.

Ask not what the Federation can do for you but what you can do for the Federation.

Let’s move forward together with trust and more stability.

To infinity and beyond.

As I said earlier, the next 12 months promise to be exciting, but I believe the future for independent retailers looks bright and everything I do will be to ensure that the NFRN represents you, our members, as effectively as possible.

Rest assured, your Federation is in good hands.

Thank you

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View the NFRN Annual Report