Retailers have called on Booker to reduce prioritisation of stock for Premier-partnered store owners amid continued shortages due to the coronavirus outbreak.

One Londis retailer expressed frustration at being excluded from certain products held specifically for Premier businesses, having been a daily customer to their local Booker depot for 30 years.

“I noticed that everybody else had essential items like hand wash, flour, toilet roll and eggs. Then I saw the manager getting stock out of the back,” they said. 

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When approached, the manager informed the retailer the stock in question was for “privileged customers” only. When the retailer asked how to become a privileged customer, the manager explained it was for Premier retailers. 

“It makes our job a lot harder. A lot of our customers are elderly – they can’t get to a supermarket. I have to go to four or five retailers every day to get what I need,” they said. 

The views were echoed by five further stores served by Booker depots. However, Laurence Pulling, owner of Londis Newhaven, said everyone was in the same position, regardless of symbol group. “We have the same problem as everyone else at the moment in terms of getting essential items,” he said. 

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Premier retailer Vas Vekaria, of Leveredge Convenience Store in Bolton, said it was only fair for Booker depots to put stock aside for Premier retailers. “We’re under their umbrella. They have a special room for Premier retailers, but it’s limited,” he said. 

Vekaria added that he sympathised with smaller retailers who visited Booker depots every day, but were not big enough to be under the Premier symbol group. “I can miss a couple of main lines and be okay, but for shopkeepers who are making under £5,000, that’s their livelihoods. 

“I suppose all wholesalers are the same at the moment,” he said.

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A Booker spokesperson said it has had Premier pick areas for its quickest-selling lines for many years and this is still the case. “We are doing everything possible to continue to supply all of our retailers who are doing an amazing job of serving their communities at this challenging time,” they added.

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