Retailers have urged suppliers to be more conscious of Covid-19 guidelines in the field, following reports of unannounced rep visits to stores.

Of 21 retailers surveyed by betterRetailing across the UK, 12 said they had received rep visits without a prior appointment within the past three months.

One store owner, who asked not to be named, told betterRetailing: “It’s a common issue. I had one rep visit me without making an appointment, and it’s concerning.

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“Not only does it affect social distancing in the shop, but they’re travelling across the country. They might be asymptomatic and not know it.

“I raised the issue and the company apologised. They said they would be asking retailers if they wanted visits, and these would be arranged by appointment from now on. This needs to happen across the industry.”

Another retailer said: “One rep came to my store and I told them I didn’t want any visits unless they’re made in advance. They spent the next hour in the shop pestering me.”

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However, despite criticism of some suppliers, other retailers had reported reps from CCEP, Walkers, Red Bull and Imperial had followed guidance.

Sam Coldbeck, of Wharfedale Premier in Hull, said: “Reps from Walkers and Mondelez have been good during the pandemic.”

The calls from retailers come as suppliers have taken contrasting approaches to rep visits since the start of the latest national lockdown.

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Some suppliers, such as Camelot, JTI, Imperial and CCEP, have again taken their reps off the road while Britvic, Red Bull and PayPoint staff are still visiting stores. All have pledged to take retailer concerns into consideration.

A CCEP spokesperson said: “We did resume visits for a period last year, when lockdown restrictions were eased, and with strict guidelines in place to ensure the safety of our colleagues and customers.

“When the time is right to resume convenience store visits once again, we will ensure social distancing measures can be followed, among other control measures being enforced to keep everyone safe, and we continue to conduct detailed risk assessments across our customer outlets.”

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A JTI spokesperson said: “The safety of our employees and retailers remains as much of a priority now as ever. When it is possible for JTI representatives to visit our valued trade partners, JTI UK will once again have strict guidelines in place.

“This includes preplanning store visits wherever possible, the use of approved PPE, increased social distancing measures and agreeing in-call objectives ahead of arrival, as well as respecting each individual outlet’s own guidelines.”

A Red Bull spokesperson said it is “not always possible to engage with every retailer in advance”, but promised to try to seek permission for visits from stores in advance.

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