John Leach

ACS is a relatively new organisation, formed in 1995. However our roots are much deeper, going all the way back to 1891. I personally like to look forward rather than back, but sometimes something happens that makes me reflect on the past, and the people whose work put in place some of the building blocks for what ACS has become today.

This week was one such time, as I heard the sad news that John Leach, a former president of the National Grocers Federation – a forerunner of ACS – had died at the age of 86 after a three-year illness. He previously owned a store in Lower Mortlake Road, Richmond, Surrey that was founded by his father in 1895.

John was a past-president of the London District Council of the National Grocers’ Federation and was the organisation’s treasurer for 25 years. Grocery industry history buffs may well know this, but it always surprises and fascinates me that in the mid-1960s John persuaded some of his fellow retailers to form Londis – the group taking its name from an amalgam of the words London District.

John was the launch chairman of Londis and remained with the group until 1994, and when I first joined ACS in 1997, he was one of a number of former NGF members who could recall the details of the merger with the Off Licence Association to become the National Food & Drink Federation, then the re-branding to the British Independent Grocers’ Association, and finally the creation out of BIGA of the Association of Convenience Stores in 1995.

I met John a number of times, and he often shared documents from the NGF archive, and stories about how the organisation changed and grew over the decades. His passion for the industry remained, even though the stores ACS was representing were so markedly different from the core NGF membership John was first involved with (in fact John, a religious man, was one of the old school of grocers and refused to sell cigarettes, tobacco, or alcohol).

As well as personal sadness over the passing of a huge figure in the trade’s history, my reaction to this news was to acknowledge how much changes and how fast. Would ACS’ founders have predicted how their industry would have looked as the organisation approached its 20th birthday? What radical changes will be see in another twenty years time? It’s important we recognise the individuals who shaped and managed that change in years gone by.

This entry was posted by Victoria on Tue, 11/03/2014 - 14:25