Kwik Save’s availability nightmare is worse than so far portrayed - according to the grocery retailer’s own store managers.

Last week The Grocer published data from a survey of six Kwik Saves by Storecheck Marketing, which showed the stores to be suffering out-of-stocks of between a quarter and two-thirds in major categories. The categories hit hardest included tobacco, bread and chilled products.

This week, The Grocer has been inundated with calls from store managers responding to the research, most despairing at the predicament they have found themselves in.

One said: “The situation is worse than you have painted it. I ordered 600 lines recently and received about two pallets’ worth.” He said the problem was not order processing or deliveries, but the amount of stock available to order. The store he supervised had only been able to stock four cigarette lines in the past 12 weeks, he claimed.

Another store manager said that out of 4,000 lines offered before Somerfield sold Kwik Save to the Back to The Future Consortium in February, fewer than 1,000 were now available.

He said the frozen product range had dropped from more than 300 lines to 53 lines since the takeover, adding that some stores were going to cash and carries for more stock. Another said his store was running at about 24% availability and added that pet food lines had plunged from 60 to seven since the takeover.

Some managers reported that they were told to remove shelf labels and even shelves to make stores look well-stocked.

“Staff are constantly harrassed by customers about the range,” said one store manager. “But what are they able to say when week in, week out we are promised that it’s getting better?”

The Storecheck survey reported that staff had not been able to explain the reason for product shortages.

However, not everyone saw the situation in the same light. One store manager said: “My stock levels are quite good.”

Kwik Save declined to comment.