To be compared or not to be compared? That’s the question that wholesalers will need to consider as price comparison websites hit the independent channel, promising retailers, caterers and foodservice outlets the chance to see who the most competitively-priced wholesalers are. But with wholesalers offering a complex system of price files and tailored price packages, will the concept really work?

There are currently two main price comparison websites for wholesalers’ customers. The first, www.improvethatprice.com, started out last year as a price-comparison site for professional caterers. Today it has branched out into grocery, offering subscribers access to a price-tracking service that emails you when the lowest price of an item drops.

The second, www.comparethewholesaler.com – which claims to have 20,000 subscribers pre-registered, is aimed at independent retailers and launched just last week. The website, which is free to join, compares prices of 100 beacon brands across various cash & carries in the UK, with plans to expand into foodservice in the year ahead.

While it’s early days for both sites, wholesalers have already voiced serious concerns over the impact these sites could have on the wider supply chain. Paul Gray, communications manager at Bestway, says: “Depot managers have the freedom to ‘wheel and deal’ at local level, but if everything becomes available online all our wholesalers’ negotiations will become void and you’ve done a disservice to the supply chain.”

One retailer even told Better Wholesaling that the most useful thing about the sites would be to help them to renegotiate deals with their wholesaler. Dean Holborn, manager of Holborn’s in Surrey, says: “I don’t know if price-comparison would change the way I shop but it would help me to negotiate with a wholesaler on price.”

Commercial director of www.comparethewholesale.com, Robert Morrison, says that retailers could improve terms by at least 3%. He posted on Better Wholesaling’s LinkedIn discussion group, “That could be an extra £11k to £26k per year contribution for a retailer – they could do a lot of good with those sorts of sums in their tills.”