from Colin C Freeman, owner/manager, Packets Wholesale, Abbey Walk, Cambridge
Sir; The decision by the OFT to allow Walkers to take over the Golden Wonder van sales fleet is a disgrace. I believe this decision should be suspended while the relevant government minister holds an inquiry into the OFT's handling of this case.
If this merger is allowed, there will no longer be any competition at a national level within this business sector. KP Foods, Golden Wonder and Walkers used to compete against each other across a wide range of national accounts, leaving the independent sector for small businesses like mine.
Palmer & Harvey now owns the KP van sales fleet and uses it to distribute Walkers products, and Walkers is using the Golden Wonder vans for its own products.
This means Walkers now has its products on every van in the country, and Walkers is now my biggest supplier and my biggest rival. They are also offering deals to their retailers that we cannot match.
The article in The Grocer (10/8/02) also shows the OFT's total lack of understanding this problem. "Significant concerns have been expressed regarding Walkers' current trading practices, but these concerns do not arise as a result of this merger situation."
This comment by the OFT is unbelievable. Do they not realise that this merger has doubled the problems for small businesses? We should not be in competition with our main supplier.
Also Walkers does not need the Golden Wonder vans to supply customers who already have a regular supplier, in most cases for many years.
I would urge all small wholesalers to make complaints to their local MPs, and the OFT to bring as much pressure to bear on the decision makers as possible to show Walkers that it cannot ignore the concerns of its customers, and to remind the company that its customers are the wholesalers, not the retailers.
When they accept this maybe we can all move on.