Independent retailers are no longer walking the aisles of their local cash & carries (C&C) according to a new report.

The research by HIM found that 89% of shop owners are now using wholesaler deliveries – up from 67% last year. Just one third of the retailers that use delivered wholesalers also visit C&Cs

Not only are there less convenience stores relying on C&Cs, those that do visit are spending much less. Just 17% of visitors now use cash and carries for their main shop, with 60% using it for a ‘top-up shop.’

HIM said the results show that retailers are now using both C&Cs and delivered wholesalers to keep shelves full and prices down. “Like shoppers, retailers are willing to shop around to seek the best value and promotions,” it said.

However, this thrifty habit has got wholesalers frustrated. Blakemore Wholesale had kicked out 100 retail club members last year. Stores director Nick Rose described them as “penny pinchers” and added: “we don’t want to waste our time there.”

Former Bestway operations director and Store Excel managing director David Gilroy said retailers shopping around are: “The most deadly threat to wholesalers.”

In response to Gilroy’s warning, The CEO of speciality food wholesaler Cotswold Fayre – Paul Hargreaves criticised his independent retailer customers stating: “They are even less loyal than national customers.”  He claimed that by shopping around for better margins, the independent sector shows a “complete lack of awareness” of how wholesalers work. Hargreaves said by splitting buying amongst several wholesalers, independents are actually reducing margins by making wholesaling more inefficient.

Gilroy said the way for wholesalers to keep retailers loyal was to be “tuned in to and keep pace with the changing needs of their customers.” This was supported by Martin Race – managing director of Bestway who previously said that wholesalers had "lost out completely" on sales in key grocery trend sectors due to being too slow to react.