Enforce the law rather than entrap retailers

THE ISSUES THAT MATTER, FROM THE PEOPLE INVOLVEDNisa problems have cost me a fortune

from a Nisa retailer, name and address supplied

big boys have their cake and eat it too

from Peter Bolwell, manager, Ann Savva Promotions

I am delighted that the Association of Convenience Stores is attacking the use of aggressive test purchasing by some councils - an issue that readers will remember we raised last summer.

Back then, the government was caught up in the binge drinking hysteria and launched a crackdown on under-age boozing with a series of high-profile test purchasing initiatives around the country.

The results were disturbing, with signs that too many retailers were selling alcohol to kids. But then we found evidence of dubious test purchasing practices that made us think some authorities were more concerned about entrapping retailers than enforcing the law.

We raised the matter with Home Office minister Hazel Blears, and warned her that many retailers felt the police were not doing enough to help those suffering abuse after refusing to sell age-restricted products. She told us: “You have raised the profile of the issue and caused me to consider that it ought to be higher up the agenda.”

It clearly did not get much further up her agenda, as the new ACS evidence suggests some authorities are now sending in gangs of kids who are told to lie about their age - which is clearly designed to intimidate staff.

Failing a test purchasing operation is every decent retailer’s nightmare. So if the government really does want to work in a true partnership with industry to tackle the issues around under-age drinking, then it clearly needs to do more to address the very real concerns you have about some test purchasing operations. And that means having the bottle to start policing the enforcers.

Asda boss Andy Bond said he wanted to inject some excitement back into the food industry, and this week he proved as good as his word with news that the chain is taking on the hard discounters with a small store format. Project Disco is a genuinely exciting idea, and we’ll enjoy reporting on its progress - particularly as the discounters start to respond,as they will. But the discounters are not the only ones who should be worried. Grocery suppliers must be concerned that Asda feels its own label is strong enough to develop such a format with very little involvement from brands.
Sir; On reading your article (‘Nisa-Today’s clawing back lost distribution ground’, The Grocer, December 3, p5), I would like to add a number of points.

As a Nisa member we have been allocated a maximum delivery quantity of almost half our normal order quantities. On Saturday, December 2, I was only allowed fewer than half the number of lines I needed and was still short on deliveries allocated to me.

Sales at my shop are down year-on-year and have been for the past five weeks due to lack of stock. I spend more time in Tesco than in my store and deliveries are still running a day later than originally planned.

The past few weeks have cost me a fortune and will cost me thousands more trying to build up my sales again.
Sir; I run my own business, so I understand the need for any company to be commercially shrewd, but the big players with their buying power have their cake and eat it too (‘ACS vents frustration over new OFT probe into grocery market’, The Grocer, December 3, p5). They abuse their suppliers at every opportunity, because they can.

An open market has its benefits but, as with most other commercial scenarios, there needs to be meaningful regulation. Until then, there is no level playing field. It is not so much the kilter of the field that concerns me, but the end result.

The ultimate victim is the consumer, most of whom are happy to pay a fair price for quality. If the big retailers continue to squeeze suppliers, they will either go out of business or take short cuts to maintain profitability, which will have an impact on quality.

At the end of the day, if the suppliers are not profitable to some extent, the supermarkets will have no suppliers.

Perhaps they will then become victims too.
who polices the testers?
asda shakes it up