An amazing war of words has broken out between Justin King, the chief executive of Sainsbury, and a leading small business lobby group.
The multiple’s boss is outraged at comments made by Forum of Private Business chief executive Nick Goulding, who last month accused Sainsbury of ripping up its contracts with suppliers in order to delay payments (Readers’ Letters, The Grocer, April 9).
Goulding’s comments were made after The Grocer revealed earlier this year how Sainsbury had provoked a storm of controversy by writing to 2,000 suppliers and informing them that their invoices would be
paid up to four weeks later than usual, leading to payment delays of up to 60 days (The Grocer, January 29, p4).
The revelation later led to intervention by the OFT in an attempt to resolve the dispute (The Grocer, March 5, p8) and Sainsbury said it had postponed the introduction of the new payment terms for 100 suppliers who had refused to sign up.
But, in a letter to the FPB, that has been seen by The Grocer, King has slammed Goulding’s comments, claiming they are “provocative and untrue”.
He adds: “We take great exception to your inaccurate statement. We also entirely refute your provocative allegation we have ‘ripped up contracts with suppliers’.
“Our objective throughout... has been to work with suppliers to reach satisfactory conclusions for all parties. Where suppliers have challenged our proposals, we have suspended the implementation of the change in payment terms and have negotiated with them to reach a satisfactory conclusion. We have now reached agreement with the vast majority of our many thousands of suppliers.
“Your letter is a clear misrepresentation of the facts and we now insist you cease to make this kind of misleading and untrue statement.”
However, a defiant Goulding said: “The FPB has nothing to apologise for and refuses to be intimidated, silenced or gagged by King - especially as he has his facts wrong.
“We refute King’s criticism that it was ‘untrue’ for the FPB to say Sainsbury tried to ‘rip up’ existing agreements with suppliers. We have a simple message for King - your bully boy tactics will not work on us.”
Simon Mowbray