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Modern Times: 1950s to The Present Day

Trade and Communications

Wholesale Trade

By Michael Moss

Shortly after wartime controls of the food industry were finally dismantled in the 1950s, the government took measures to outlaw price fixing that had been common throughout much of British industry before the Second World War. This spelt the end for many small firms of provision merchants since retailers preferred to deal with suppliers directly so as to reduce their costs. The supermarket chains purchased all their supplies centrally and had little use for local wholesalers with the exception of some perishable goods such as eggs.

By 1980 many wholesalers had ceased trading or been taken over by national groups. This had ramifications for local producers who found themselves unable to compete with cheaper imports. The once thriving Ayrshire bacon and cheese industries all but disappeared. Some wholesalers diversified into the cash and carry trade and at the same time a new generation grew up to supply the growing number of small retail outlets owned by immigrants.

With the recovery of the world drinks trade after the war, the few surviving independent firms prospered such as Teachers, Whyte & Mackay and Robertson & Baxter along with its sister company Highland Distillers with its Famous Grouse brand. In the engineering trades the wholesaler and stockist was increasingly squeezed out of business except for those handling specialist items and very small consignments from little firms of blacksmiths. Along with the firms they supplied, they closed their doors, their premises were demolished and the role they played was forgotten. They have been replaced by wholesale outlets controlled by manufacturers and producers.

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