Budgens trading director Cliff Goodman provoked a storm of controversy at this year's Nisa conference in Marbella by accusing suppliers of giving independents a raw deal. Goodman began his presentation by showing delegates a slide produced by the Competition Commission showing that the 26 largest suppliers charged Tesco 11% less than Budgens on the top five branded lines. "This puts us in the pit lane with a flat tyre. Everyone here pays higher cost prices than the multiples. All we want is a level playing field." He went on to criticise "suppliers here in this room" of providing "dismal levels of service". Jacksons trading director Richard Lancaster said an 11% differential was "clearly unacceptable", adding: "If we are being disadvantaged on terms, give us the reason why." However, Lancaster and Goodman stressed retailers and Nisa central office also had a responsibility to drive supply chain efficiency and better store discipline in order to get better terms from suppliers, with more EDI, backhauling, collaborative forecasting and electronic ordering and payment. Suppliers said the figures did not take into account advertising support to Nisa members and the additional costs incurred in supplying the independent sector, which required several layers of negotiation both with individual members and CBC and higher distribution costs. Several pointed out that handling a multiple account required fewer staff, bringing guaranteed product distribution throughout the estate and greater control over the way products are merchandised and sold. Some large fmcgs said they had been testing a new open book pricing policy explaining to retailers exactly why there is a differential and what they need to do to close the gap. Nisa CBD managing director Neil Turton said business efficiency discounts and logistics efficiency discounts were now available from larger suppliers. Instead of wasting valuable time arguing over terms, a more transparent pricing policy allowed trading partners to devote more time to discussing crucial strategic issues and longer term issues, he added. {{NEWS }}