56th FEST Congress, 13th-15th September, 2018

The 56th FEST Congress, hosted by President Beatrix Ostermann of Frauenthal Handel and ÖVSHG, took place between 13-15 September 2018 in Vienna. More than 150 delegates representing all 17 European member countries attended the event, making it another memorable conference in the Federation’s history.

The business programme was tailored around the main theme of helping wholesalers adapt to the changing world of digitalisation. Renowned speakers challenged business leaders to avoid being gatekeepers in their own companies, preventing young entrepreneurs experiment with new trading concepts or introduce technological improvements to help manage traditional customer relationship models. Ignoring the rising threat of the global players, such as Amazon and Google, will not delay their progress in disrupting the marketplace. Change is inevitable and the next generation of customers, the ‘Early adopters’, are already looking for alternative supply channels to source those products traditionally sold via industry wholesalers. 

There are no guarantees of what tomorrow will bring, but hiding one’s head in the sand will not slow the onset of change. As industry middlemen, wholesalers have to find ways to add value in the supply chain or they risk becoming a victim of progress. This was the message hammered home by all three keynote speakers.

Alongside the conference programme, the delegates were given a tour of two local wholesalers’ operations on the outskirts of Vienna, whilst their partners enjoyed a visit to some local tourist attractions and the magnificent Schönbrunn palace. The Gala dinner was held in Vienna’s world renowned Natural History Museum, followed by a Saturday morning’s sightseeing tour for delegates in a traditional Viennese horse-drawn Fiaker.