Retail veterans push for charity

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New GroceryAid team has big plans for Scotland

Peter Steel wants to raise GroceryAid’s profile at home

THERE is a new team at the helm of GroceryAid in Scotland and they want to see the industry charity reinvigorated north of the border.

Peter Steel – formerly of field retail firm McCurrach and now owner-operator of Steel-works Field Sales consultancy – has taken on the role of joint chairman of GroceryAid’s Scottish branch alongside former Scotmid food retail business manager Jim Harper.

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The pair told Scottish Grocer they are on a mission to improve engagement with GroceryAid in Scotland, which should hopefully encourage more retail colleagues in need of assistance to come forward.

GroceryAid currently offers a wealth of support available to current and former retail staff, as well as those working in wholesale and production.

It recently launched a Workplace Critical Incident Support helpline, offering help to victims of trauma at work.

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Jim Harper wants to bring GroceryAid back to what it was in its heyday

GroceryAid’s helpline is always open, offering support through workplace counselling specialist CiC, for victims of retail violence, bereavement, medical emergencies and accidents at work.

The charity also offers financial support for retail colleagues who have fallen on hard times and at the moment it helps around 500 people in Scotland each year.

That’s not a number to sniff at, but Steel and Harper want to see the figure doubled in the next few years and they reckon improving awareness in Scotland is the way to go about it.

“For the Scottish branch to be successful we need to get the retailers engaged again in Scotland.

“It’s important we engage with our Scottish colleagues to bring GroceryAid back to what it was in its heyday,” said Harper.

Before merging with confectionery benevolent organisation Sweet Charity in 2012, GroceryAid operated as grocery industry charity Caravan.

Steel and Harper said they recognised that Caravan had great engagement in Scotland in years gone by, a state of affairs the pair are keen to see GroceryAid return to.

Work has already begun, with the Scottish committee boasting around a dozen representatives from across the sector – including retired Booker manager and Scottish Grocer Awards 2019 Industry Achievement Award winner Eddie Lynagh.

Spar UK has also signed up to support GroceryAid, a move welcomed by Steel and Harper, and the charity looks set to appear at a variety of wholesaler trade shows across the country.

It’s a decent start, but Steel wants to see even more engagement.

Reaching out to retailers is critical to success according to Steel, who was keen to note that GroceryAid is far from being a charity simply for the retired.

“I’m a great believer that GroceryAid is a grass roots thing.

“Only about one third of beneficiaries are retired.  If we are to achieve our aim of doubling the beneficiaries, we really need the Scottish trade to engage in the charity.

“It’s a fantastic free resource available to anyone who has worked in the industry and I think there is a real onus on businesses to ensure the charity is well supported and to ensure that their colleagues know what help they can access,” he said.

In practical terms, Steel said that means GroceryAid needs more industry volunteers to join the committee, businesses to run awareness events to educate staff, and support for fundraising events.