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Alan Hawkins, bira CEO
By Bira

Rates battle goes on as CEO Alan Hawkins welcomes his successor

As he welcomes his successor, CEO Alan Hawkins looks back with pride

I write my final column here with a tinge of sadness that my time as CEO is ending as I near retirement, but also with a sense of pride in what has been achieved during the 12 years of my tenure.

There is a news item about my successor Andrew Goodacre. He will take time to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation he inherits before making his own plans to take bira forward with the sense of member involvement you rightly expect.

The group offers a range of services over many areas, often through its significant subsidiaries. Keeping them all working as one can be difficult. Our members are a diverse group of independents from large to small, from niche specialists to regional department stores, and on to large agricultural dealerships.

This is the joy of bira and it makes no day for a CEO quite the same as the last.

I suspect historically our range of services have been the main reason for members joining bira. Some might argue that we sometimes try to do too much, even with more than 75 dedicated professionals on the staff. With initiatives ranging from our £1bn credit card deal to the right music licence for your shop, all the services have their place.

I suspect, however, that fighting the independent retailers’ corner with centres of influence, most notably government, is becoming our main raison d’etre. It is no accident that in my last month we have a visit to HM Treasury planned and a Commons committee room booked to explain our rates reform proposals to a willing audience of MPs and the press. Andrew will inherit a legal & parliamentary committee well placed to guide him in this increasingly vital area.

Our members need a cost base from which it is possible to make a fair living. Too many governments have been passing costs (living wage, pensions auto-enrolment, apprentice levy to name but a topical few) down the line in the apparent expectation that independents have some magic money tree to fund them.

The current state of our high streets does require retailers to be nimbler of foot and more receptive of change. There is no future in just waiting for help, but we must strive with a sense of urgency to level the trading playing field.

In conclusion, I’d like to express a heartfelt “thank you” to all bira members for your encouragement and forbearance, but most importantly your friendship, both for myself and my wife Madeline. bira has been, and continues to be, well-served by its long list of presidents, committees and subsidiary boards, all of whom contribute for no more personal reward other than putting something back.

And last but not least, my appreciation goes to the wonderful bira staff and our external consultants, who are ready to welcome enthusiastically a new boss. The bira stalwart Robert Jarrett is leaving at roughly the same time as me and there are other significant positions to fill in the top team that have been waiting for the new CEO’s arrival.

Andrew, I wish you all the luck in the world.



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