supplier availability

Supplier availability is at its “worst ever” level, leading to service issues for wholesalers, lost sales and retailers migrating to other symbol groups.

Speaking at the IGD Wholesaling summit last week, Booker’s trading director Dominic Morrey said the wholesaler’s initiatives on core range and bestsellers had been affected because “they can’t get the product”.

Addressing suppliers, he said: “Be it production issues, cyber-attacks, machine breakdowns – collectively it’s not good enough and you’re letting your customers down.”

He added his trading team had “effectively become supply chain managers” managing availability.

At the same event Martyn Ward, managing director of Palmer & Harvey, said the situation was the worst he had ever experienced.

Both men said the situation had deteriorated over the past few months and other wholesalers have since spoken to RN to share their concerns.

One wholesale managing director said some problems were a result of suppliers moving production overseas, but blamed them for not “insulating against these” by stockpiling products. “Suppliers are just shrugging their shoulders and not taking responsibility,” he said.

The wholesale boss identified Britvic as one supplier responsible for availability issues, while also claiming an unidentified tobacco supplier had left the business down to 60% availability on a “massive brand”.

David Livingstone, operations manager for Scotland at Bestway Wholesale, described the difficulties as “a huge distraction” which had caused “major disruption, poor service and lost revenue” for the business.

Mr Livingstone said the number of pricemarked packs was causing confusion for suppliers but also highlighted logistical and IT issues as being behind the issues. He said suppliers needed to “better forecast promotional and seasonal lines”.

Retailers have also experienced issues.

One, who asked not to be named, said: “Supply chain issues have hit our tobacco sales. We’ve been unable to get products from our top five lines, which include JTI and Imperial. We’ve also had supply issues from Mondelez.”

Another, also speaking anonymously, said they had recently switched symbol groups, leaving Nisa after constant availability issues led to a 3% drop in store sales.

“We’d have availability of key promotions for the first week but it would tail off after that. Nisa kept saying there were supplier issues but I could often go into the cash and carry and see reams and reams of the same products,” he said.

Jonathan Stowe, operations director at Nisa, said poor availability was a frustrating issue affecting the whole market. However, he said Nisa was “totally focused on availability and supplier performance, and has adopted a collaborative approach to maximise availability”.

Andy Stevens, JTI head of sales, said: “At this time we do not have any major availability issues.”

JTI said it did not have major availability issues at this time and Mondelez said it strived to provide the best service. Britvic declined to comment.

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