Research backs wider SGF role

MAGAZINES are in the habit of giving short descriptions of subjects in stories, so that new readers quickly understand the relevance of the person or group involved.

Typically the Scottish Grocers Federation is said to be a retailer representative group.

But for SGF chief executive Pete Cheema that doesn’t capture all the work of the modern SGF.

SGF Conference 2016.. Photograph by Mike Wilkinson....14/10/16 Copyright photograph by Mike Wilkinson. Contact Mike on 07768 393673
Scottish Grocers Federation chief executive Pete Cheema speaking at the recent SGF Conference in Edinburgh. He sees the organisation as representing suppliers, symbol groups and retailers.

He’s been in the job for around 18 months and now, more than ever, he reckons that the SGF is about bringing all parts of the food and drink manufacturing, supply and retail chain together – to talk and swap knowledge and ideas and to present common interests to government and others.

The most recent SGF conference, held at the RBS headquarters conference centre in Edinburgh in October, was, he suggests, a good example of that.

“I was really pleased that we had around 150 retailers there,” he said.

The SGF Connect App, available on the App Store and Google Play

The conference now has an exhibition where suppliers demonstrated everything from data services to tobacco dispensing equipment. Major companies like Camelot, Imperial Tobacco and Mars organised breakout sessions. And now all major symbol groups operating in Scotland have taken up membership.

All of that illustrates that SGF is fulfilling a wider representative and facilitating roll than ever, Cheema said.

Currently he reckons the organisation is moving ahead in several strands of activity.

One is communications and branding.

“We never really sold ourselves as a brand,” he said.

“Now with the introduction of the SGF App and of the notes that we’re sending by text, the branding is becoming predominant.”

Another strand is high-profile political lobbying and representation. Last month SGF organised a Scottish Parliament exhibition and the first full meeting of the new Cross Party Group on independent retailing was held.

SGF is now very actively attempting to have a member’s bill launched to give shop workers similar protection to emergency workers.

“We’re working with MSP Daniel Johnson to see if we can get a member’s bill put through.”

Other attempts to achieve similar outcomes had failed, he acknowledged. But things are different largely because of another strand of SGF activity – data.

Its Local Shop Report and Retail Crime Survey showed that shop workers are effectively enforcing Scottish Parliament laws. And that the problems of abuse, and indeed violence, when enforcing those laws are real and entirely unacceptable, he said.

Research and data aspects of the SGF’s work are about to get a major boost thanks to the organisation’s strong connections with Stirling University’s Institute of Retail Studies.

“We have secured the services of a PhD student for the next three years looking at various things, including the cumulative burden on retailers and the multiplier effect, and carrying out research into other areas that affect retailers.

“It’s a massive step for the SGF,” Cheema said.

“I think we are moving things on to another level.”