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Annual Conference 2022

Innovation and Protecting Your Future

This year’s Annual Conference will take place at The Vox Conference Centre, in Resorts World, Birmingham. Delegates will arrive on Sunday, June 19, with Monday, June 20, marking the start of two days of discussions and networking, with the gala dinner on the Monday evening.

As our policy-making forum, Annual Conference is the key event in the Fed’s calendar and there are some big changes for this year’s event with a new venue, date, and format.

For 2022 and for the first time in several years, we are returning to Birmingham, but the event will take place in the new venue of The Vox Conference Centre, in Resorts World.

Delegates will arrive during Sunday June 19 and the event itself will run over the following two days.

Alongside the usual mix of passionate debate and presentations, there will be a trade show, a gala dinner, and some break-out sessions to alert independent retailers to exciting new opportunities.

National President Narinder Randhawa said: “Because of Covid-19, there was no conference in 2020 and we had to scale back much of the activities last year. With this new, central location and with some exciting new features, I look forward to welcoming members, guests, and suppliers to Birmingham.

“Besides showcasing all the NFRN’s achievements, we will be looking at new opportunities so we can all make more sales and profits.”

As usual, one of the main features of the conference is the election of national officials. This year’s candidates for National President and national vice president are Jason Birks and Muntazir Dipoti, respectively, while the candidate post of national deputy vice president will be Mo Razzaq.

The two members standing as trustees are Surjit Khunkhun and Pravin Chauhan.

One of the key issues coming up for debate will be the continuing fight against retail crime in all its forms, with police chief Patrick Holdaway and Sussex police and crime commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne confirmed as guest speakers.

Another major topic for discussion is the deposit return scheme (DRS) and we are pleased to announce that David Gell, policy lead for DRS at the government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has also been confirmed as a speaker.

Mr Randhawa added: “This year’s Annual Conference promises to be an excellent event in what is a fantastic venue. I look forward to meeting as many members as possible and enjoying constructive and informative debates on issues that are of real importance to us all as independent retailers.”

Guest speakers

City of London Superintendent and National Business Crime Centre lead, Patrick Holdaway, on retail crime.

David Gell, policy lead for the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on DRS.

Steve McCabe MP. Member of Parliament for Birmingham, Selly Oak and Chair of the APPG for Retail Crime.

Paul Scully MP. Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets.

Read Narinder Randhawa's farewell speech

Good Morning delegates,

As your National President it is an honour for me to chair our 2022 Annual Conference in our new venue of The Vox in Birmingham.  For the next two days we are here to make Federation policy.  To listen to supplier presentations.  To network with old acquaintances and meet new colleagues.  So, I am expecting – and looking forward to – plenty of well informed and passionate debate.  I also know that the issues we will be covering are incredibly important to independent retailers and to Fed members alike.

For this year’s Conference we have adopted the theme Innovation and Protecting Your Future.  But Innovation and Protecting Your Future have been at the forefront of everything that I set out to achieve when elected as your National President just eight months ago.  And I can promise that Innovation and Protecting Your Future will remain our priorities and will form the core of our activities and initiatives for the months – and years – to come.

It is hard to believe that it is eight months since I last addressed Annual Conference.  I admit that those eight months have passed in a whirlwind.  It has been a steep learning curve.  And incredibly busy.  At times it has felt like a rollercoaster ride.  We have all had highs and lows.  Some elements have been challenging.  But throughout those eight months it has been an honour and privilege to lead this great organisation of ours.  And it has been very fulfilling too.

From reading the Annual Report and Activity Report and from listening to the various presentations and debates taking place over the next couple of days, I hope you will agree that your Fed has done some great things to help independent retailers.  And that even though we are trading in such challenging operating conditions when our costs escalate on a weekly basis, that there is still plenty of things to be positive about.  That independent retailers still have a future – and a bright one at that.  And that belonging to the Fed has never been so important or beneficial.

As is customary, I would now like to take a few minutes to update you on what the organisation has been doing on your behalf.  With spiralling energy costs.  With petrol and diesel price hikes and rises in delivery charges from both wholesalers and news wholesalers and with inflation soaring, it has been even more important than ever for your Fed to put money into members’ tills.  And this is certainly an area where we have made good progress.  I hope that many of you here today have been able to take advantage of our promotions with Booker which have put hundreds of thousands of pounds in members’ tills.  We have also worked closely with Grenade, with 300 members benefitting from £10,000 worth of free stock.  And in Ireland we teamed up with Value Centre in a money-off promotion.  A big thanks must go to the business development committee and the department for delivering such real benefits to members.  Relationships are being forged with new suppliers and we are getting reacquainted with existing partners.

Amid all these cost pressures, we have continued to press governments to ensure they do not turn their backs on the people who worked so hard to keep their communities going during the pandemic.  I have said it many times before, but everyone who stands behind a shop counter deserves to work in an environment that is safe.  Sadly, theft, vandalism and physical and verbal attacks are all too familiar to too many of us sitting in this room today.  It’s for this very reason that our political engagement department has continued to keep the pressure up when discussing retail crime with the government, with police forces and with police and crime commissioners in England and Wales.  Of course, Scotland led the way last summer by passing legislation giving shop workers greater protection from abuse and assault.  Since then, the political engagement team has left no stone unturned in its quest to get the UK government to follow suit.  And almost six months after Daniel Johnson’s Protection of Workers Bill came into force in Scotland, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was passed in Westminster, making it an offence to assault anyone providing a public duty.  This legislation takes effect from next Monday.  And this is very good news indeed.  Retail crime is such an important issue there will be a panel debate about it tomorrow and we are delighted to have some high-profile speakers.

Relationships with politicians continues to grow – so much so that we have been delighted to welcome some of Scotland and Ireland’s key MSPs and ministers to our events.  At the Irish AGM dinner, the guest of honour was Robert Troy, the enterprise, trade, and employment minister, who set out the action he was taking to help independent retailers who were facing eye-watering insurance premiums.  And at our Scottish conference, delegates were addressed by Tom Arthur, the Scottish minister for public finance, planning and community wealth who focused on the importance of independent retailers to the local economy.  While the leader of the Scottish Labour Party Anas Sarwar paid tribute to members and their efforts to support local communities during the pandemic.

Earlier this morning we heard from Birmingham Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe, the chairman of a cross parliamentary group on retail crime, on the importance of the independent retail sector.  During conference, we will also be addressed by retail minister Paul Scully.  Such attendance and support shows that the Fed’s voice – and that of independent retailers – is being heard at the highest levels of all parliaments.  That government ministers, MPs, MSPs, Assembly Members and TDs are fully aware of the issues impacting on the future survival of independent retailers and the assistance required so that they can be – and will be – addressed.

On the news front, there are still too many occasions when members receive a raw deal when it comes to service levels and our relationships with both publishers and wholesalers remain challenging.  In February, I attended my first ever newspaper summit and I found it was hugely beneficial to sit in the same room as our supply chain partners to discuss ways of protecting and promoting the printed word.  Buying a newspaper is still one of the key reasons for customers to come into our stores, so it is important the printed word survives and thrives.  That said, it is equally important that independent retailers get the level of service they deserve and fair recompense.

The news department and the Contact Centre – previously Connect – work tirelessly on your behalf to rectify service issues.  And I can’t impress upon you enough the importance of reporting all service failings to the Fed.  Just recently, the Contact Centre reached the incredible milestone of recouping £1.5 million of money owed to members, the team does a fantastic job and I want to take the opportunity publicly to thank every one of them.  Keep up the good work!  Great strides have been taken in terms of membership recruitment.  So much so, that just recently, we announced that in the first six months of the year more than 500 new members had been recruited – 100 of which came via the Contact Centre.

Besides the great deals on fuel, energy, and bank card transactions, it seems that independent retailers are also attracted by the free legal advice provided and our regular money-off deals with Booker.  But more importantly, they recognise that we’re not just here to help during the good times. We’re a crucial ally when the going gets tough.  This is another fantastic achievement and a testament to the hard work of all those out on the road, in the Contact Centre and in the administration department.

Another highlight has been the progress made with Project Ireland to give our members out there the voice, representation and support they want and deserve.  Our work is on-going but we are making inroads in terms of communications, marketing and political engagement.  A whistle-stop tour of some of the best stores in the country showed the positivity and ingenuity that exists among our members out there.  I believe there is much we can learn from our Irish colleagues when it comes to tailoring our offerings.

It is not actually until you make the hot seat of National President that you realise exactly how much the Fed does for you, the membership.  And yes, there may have been the odd occasion when we don’t have all the answers, but we will never stop trying to get them.  To be successful, an organisation like ours needs the best people and that’s what we have.  And we all need to change.  It’s what we do in our businesses.  The Fed needs to evolve – not to react.  By doing so we will remain relevant and we will continue to give independent retailers the best support in a hugely competitive, ever-changing and demanding marketplace.  This is a journey we need to make together.  We need to hear exactly what you want and think.

Going back eight months and when I stood before you in Bournemouth, I said that I was immensely happy, proud, and privileged to be elected National President.  To lead this great organisation with such passionate, enthusiastic, and committed members.  As I stand here this morning, I am still immensely proud and privileged.  Over the past eight months I have tried to be true to my convictions and to fulfil my promises to bring new and beneficial opportunities to the membership.  I hope you will agree that these objectives and promises have been met.  That the great work already achieved by my predecessors has continued.

That retailers see the Fed as the first port of call when they need help or support – whether financial, legal, or even just a sympathetic ear.  That we have continued to bring great deals and benefits to the party.  And that the Fed represents you, our members, as effectively as possible.  Thank you for giving me the chance to put my energy and passion to work.

Behind me, I have been fortunate to have a great NEC, a great NFC, a great national council, a great standing orders committee and great staff.  They know what has been needed of them and have got on with the job.  I must also thank my family and my branch and district colleagues for their support.  I hope that you agree that the Fed is renewed, reorganised, and reinvigorated.  We cannot be complacent though.  We must continue to evolve to meet the challenge of a changed and changing world.  We must continue to satisfy the demands of our professional, enthusiastic, and innovative members.  We must equip them with the services, help, advice and benefits that they need to flourish.

Through Innovation and by Protecting Your Future, I am convinced that the Fed is more than capable of not only facing the challenges thrown at us but – more importantly – overcoming them.

Change is critical but we must focus on issues where we can make a difference and keep complacency at bay.  I make no apologies for repeating myself, but it has been a real honour to serve as your National President.  Tomorrow afternoon I hand the National President’s baton over to Jason.  Jason is a very experienced Fed colleague and an excellent retailer who is every bit as passionate as me about the Fed and its members.  I know that as your National President Jason will provide you with the best representation possible in an ever changing, more demanding marketplace.  He believes in Innovation and Protecting our Future.  This means supporting one another.

As I have discovered over the past eight months, while we can do some things alone, together they can be great.  I’m proud of what we have achieved to date.  And I now look forward to two days of lively debate on how best we can progress.

Thank you and enjoy conference.

Keep up-to-date

Our social team will be on hand at the events, keeping everyone updated.  Follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagramLinkedIn and YouTube to ensure you don’t miss a moment.

Did you know? The official hashtag for this year’s event is #TheFedAC2022.  Search this hashtag across our social channels!

A full report of all the action from conference will be available after the event in The Fed magazine and on our YouTube channel.

Annual Conference updates

Annual conference 2022

As our policy-making forum, Annual Conference is the key event in the Fed’s calendar and there are some big changes for...