Retailers have told Costcutter and Palmer & Harvey to sort out supply chain issues within a month or risk losing scores of stores to other symbol and wholesale groups.

The ultimatum was given following a number of calls to RN from concerned Costcutter retailers, who reported missing stock and poor service during the recent switch from Nisa to P&H depots.

John Vine, owner of Newsworld in Church Stretton, Shropshire, said he was twice forced to make a 40 mile round trip to a Booker depot because of product shortages: “It’s been getting worse over the last few weeks.

“If the situation doesn’t improve in the next month I’m seriously considering joining someone else or becoming a pure independent.”

Robert Madden, owner of Costcutter R&D Madden in Manchester, said semi skimmed milk had been missing from his last two P&H deliveries: “I signed up to a symbol group so that I didn’t have to visit the cash and carry. It’s been getting better but we are considering our options.”

However, Bhavesh Parekh of Kwik Save said he has experienced no problems during the switch: “We’ve just had a large delivery where we’ve had 98% availability, so we’re very satisfied.”

Costcutter chief executive Darcy Willson-Rymer acknowledged retailers’ criticism, adding: “These plans are being driven hard and fast to enable us to remove the difficulties and get us to normal service levels within the next three to four weeks – just as we did with the migration in Northern Ireland back in March.”

P&H managing director Martyn Ward said a new 30,000sq ft chilled facility in Bristol and 80,000sq ft site in Leeds would also ease pressure on the supply chain and thanked retailers for their patience.

Meanwhile, Nisa has launched a helpline and support service targeted at Costcutter retailers looking to re-join the business.