SGF president lays out the organisation’s ambitions for the year ahead
by John McNee
PRESIDENT of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation Abdul Majid has a clear goal in mind for what he wants to achieve in 2015.
“My aim, by the end of the year, is to have a cross-party working group within the Scottish Parliament dealing with convenience store issues,” he said.
“That would be a monumental success for our organisation, if we can pull it off.”
There would certainly be no shortage of issues for a working group to address, such as business rates, wages and the crippling effects of red tape, he said.
And though the SGF has achieved a lot in its recent dealings with the Scottish Government, Abdul hopes his tenure will be one that brings politicians and retailers together.
“The SGF represents retailers so it needs a retailer as a figurehead, as I see it,” he said.
“I also think it’s easier for government to engage with a single-store operator and easier to see the impact of policy. They imagine the larger operators have the clout and the money, the PR and the marketing machine to survive, but if we have a problem, they’ll listen to us.
“The whole reason I got involved with the SGF in the first place was to ensure the local voice is heard. Scotland’s one-store retailers should be proud of who we are, what we do and what we achieve for our communities. That’s a message we need to get out there, especially to the MSPs, to ensure that they’re working to assist us to survive.”
Abdul has spent his whole life in retail, leaving school in 1979 to join Fine Fare as a trainee manager and managing his own store in Bellshill since 1983.
He was on the SGF’s National Executive for a considerable time before assuming the office of President in May 2014.
He wasn’t long in the job when he scored an impressive coup, securing then first minister Alex Salmond’s attendance at the SGF Conference as keynote speaker.
“An opportunity came up where we were both at the same event and I just thought I’d ask him the question, because the worst he could say was no,” he said.
“But he was happy to do it. It was just luck. Right place, right time.”
He has taken a similarly direct approach in building relationships with the rest of Scotland’s political parties, going directly to MSPs rather than civil servants.
And he hopes some new friendships will be formed this month, when the SGF hosts an exhibition space in the Scottish Parliament on 6, 7 and 8 January.
“I’m positive about finding key party leaders and building relationships,” he said.
“Opportunities are fleeting and rare and you have to grasp them. Now anywhere I go, anyone I meet, I’m thinking both about myself and the SGF, to see where it can lead.
“I have got to use my time in office to my advantage to ensure that the relationships are there for when my successor comes in. I’ve still got my own store to run too, so it’s all a bit of a juggling act.
“It feels like it’s been an eternity in the job already, but for a single-store operator like me to have these kind of opportunities is great. And it gives all single-store operators the feeling that one of them is there at the top.”