Cash & carries missed out on vital Christmas alcohol sales as independent retailers stocked up on “hundreds of cases” of cheap supermarket booze at a time.

December used to account for 25% of alcohol sales for wholesalers, but many saw sales fall as otherwise loyal customers were lured by deals at the mults.

Ranbir Singh Chima, who owns Milton News Food and Wine in Kilbirnie, North Ayrshire, spent £1,000 on spirits at Asda and Tesco in the past month. “The supermarkets were doing litres at £13 - we can’t buy them at that price from a cash & carry,” he said.

He also spent £1,500 at Asda on 200 cases of Tennent’s lager and Budweiser, which were each on a rollback promotion for £7.

“I usually go to the cash & carry to buy theBudweiser for £7.49 plus VAT,” Chima said. “The Asda stock had a year’s date on it, so I picked up about 100 cases.”

Chima managed to buy so much by splitting the purchase between members of his five-aside football team. “After practice we’d all go down and pick up three bottles each,” he said.

But industry insiders have also spoken of deals done “by the back door” between business owners and store managers, flouting the maximum purchase rules the mults set for consumers.

A senior cash & carry source said his alcohol sales were down this Christmas. “I asked my customers where they were getting stock from
and they told me the multiples,” he said. “The larger ones said the store manager waived the maximum purchase and sold them pallets.”

A senior supplier source also said he knew of supermarket managers doing similar deals via the back door “into a white van or even into a truck” just to get the volume through.

A spirits supplier said one of its brands had been seen for sale in one of the big four at a price lower than the company had provided support for.

“We had wholesalers calling us because they couldn’t even buy it from us at that price,” the source said. “From a supplier point of view, yes, we benefit from the volume, but in the longer term it creates issues.”

A Tesco spokeswoman said: “We aim to offer all our customers great promotions and to ensure consistent availability do not support stores knowingly making sales to trade. As a responsible retailer, all of our staff are trained to limit alcohol purchases to reasonable personal consumption.”

Asda said it “limits the quantity of products to ensure all our shoppers have a chance of getting the great price.”