Government action improves local shop availability

Busy wholesalers and convenience stores are starting to see an increase in stock availability, following an intervention by FWD with government.

The immediate improvement came after Defra officials encouraged suppliers to rebalance their allocation to reflect the purchasing habits of members of the public who are following government advice to avoid unnecessary travel and contact, and choosing to take advantage of local shops and home delivery services.

In a call arranged by FWD, wholesalers and retailers told government officials that suppliers’ allocations were based on historic sales data that did not reflect current consumer behaviour. Independent shops have seen large increases in sales of grocery, household and health products since the outbreak of Covid-19 but have struggled to meet demand as suppliers have failed to fulfil orders.

FWD Chief Executive James Bielby said: “We’ve had a very positive response from government and suppliers to our calls for this obvious need for re-alignment to meet increased demand. In many cases, the smaller shops our members supply are the only choice for rural communities and urban residential areas, and therefore play a vital role for those who are self-isolating or limiting their movement outside their homes.

“While demand hotspots have fluctuated wildly in the early weeks of this crisis, we expect purchasing patterns to settle down, with an emphasis on local. As suppliers are likely to be facing a slowdown in production and rationalising ranges, it’s important that they understand where their brands are most needed and we’re grateful to government for listening, and to the Food and Drink Federation for their help in communicating to their members about the need for balance when they allocate product.”

FWD Chair Coral Rose has this week written to all FWD supplier members to ask they supply wholesalers on a fair basis with allocations and stock availability.

She wrote: “These are challenging times for everyone, but now is the time to work together, so we ask you to work with your wholesale partners, help them whenever and wherever you can, and help us keep this vital route to market supplied and supported.”

Clare Bocking, Chief Commercial Officer at DCS Group, which distributes household and heath brands to the wholesale channel, said allocations were increasing. “Just in the last 24 hours we have seen suppliers prioritising this route to market, so we can assure retailers that the brands they need are coming,” Bocking added.

“One supplier is now delivering 32 lorries to us over the Easter weekend, plus an additional 15% of loads with immediate effect. This decision was supported by their European VP so we are being heard now at the highest levels.”

“It’s been a very positive response to a combined effort by the wholesale and convenience sector and suppliers have reacted as quickly as they can to redress the imbalance in allocation.”

Clare Bocking Coral Rose coronavirus covid-19 DCS FWD Government James Bielby suppliers wholesaler