Booker has slammed suppliers for ‘letting our customers down’ after being hit with the worst availability issues it has had in a decade.

Some 23 of the wholesaler’s bestselling products have been out of stock at its depots every week for the past four months.

Trading director Colm Johnson made the revelation at IGD’s Wholesaling event in London yesterday. Despite these issues, he said Booker had enjoyed a 15% increase in retail sales since launching its ‘Core In Every Store’ (CIES) initiative in June.

The scheme highlights a range of bestselling products that retailers should be stocking to drive footfall.

Johnson said there was no point getting behind an initiative “saying ‘it’s CIES, these are the bestsellers mister independent retailer’ and then we can’t get the products”.

“This is typical of what we’ve been seeing in the last three or four months,” he said.

“Actually, the 10 years I’ve been doing this I can’t remember a time availability has been so poor across our supply base. And it’s not any one single supplier, it’s right across the base. Whether it be production issues, whether it be cyber-attacks, machine breakdown, pack changes - the list goes on. Collectively what’s happening is it’s not doing a good enough job.

“We’re letting our customers down, and you’re [suppliers] letting yourselves down.”

Earlier this year, Palmer & Harvey blamed the hot summer weather after retailers complained about a lack of availability on key lines, late deliveries, and incomplete orders.

Speaking at the event, P&H managing director Martyn Ward said availability had been the worst he has seen ‘in a while’.

“We have to have the products so we can sell it - if we don’t have it we can’t sell it, we lose, you [suppliers] lose,” he said.

“Our customers lose, and the consumers go elsewhere.”