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    Booker wholesale accused of squeezing local c-stores out of business

    Representative image of Booker by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

    Some local stores have raised serious allegations about supermarket chain Tesco of using its wholesale business Booker to “squeeze” them out of business by restricting supplies and deliveries of groceries, stated a media report today (22).

    The Guardian in a report cited many independent retailers to claim that a series of changes recently introduced by Tesco’s wholesale arm Booker is putting them under pressure and forcing them to seek supplies from distant cash and carries.

    Booker has reduced the range of items available by up to 30 per cent at some sites, withdrawing customer favourites including Yorkshire Tea, Rowntree’s sweets and Colman’s mustard, and reduced the availability of delivery services, claimed the report.

    Andrew Goodacre, the chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), called on the UK competition watchdog to examine the issue and said he would be raising the matter with Kevin Hollinrake, the minister for small business.

    “I think it’s shocking,” Goodacre said. “This shows the worst of a large company bullying little shops. Communities want these small shops and these are not businesses making millions of pounds.”

    A retailer who runs a convenience store and post office in Miserden, Gloucestershire, alleged that his local Booker depot has stopped selling sought-after brands including Colman’s mustard, Tuc and Cheddars biscuits while the alternatives provided are often branded with the Jack’s label.

    As much as 30 per cent of the range he previously bought from Booker could no longer be sourced, The Guardian quoted the retailer, who felt like Tesco was “slowly pushing us aside”.

    The report claims that in some cases, Booker is reportedly now demanding the retailers buy whole cases of frozen food while small local shops don’t have enough space in their freezer.

    It was earlier announced in February that Booker would be tightening up its range for retailers which it said had become “a little bloated”. The wholesaler said it would also be introducing more Jack’s own-label and more fresh produce after reviewing its various grocery categories last year.

    A spokesperson for Booker said, “We remain absolutely committed to serving community shops across the UK either through branch or delivery.

    “Last year, we reviewed our range across all branded and own-brand products to ensure we have the right offer and in response to feedback that customers want more consistency across branches. As part of that review, we removed products that customers weren’t choosing, to make more space for products that really matter. Overall feedback has been positive and we’ve already seen improvements in availability.”

    In 2017, at the time of the Booker takeover, the issue was raised at Competition and Markets Authority that the deal might hand Tesco “incontestable power over the procurement of all grocery categories in the UK”.

    Asian Trader has reached out to Booker to know its thoughts on these allegations.

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