Local suppliers who once talked to a store owner about stocking its jams, chutneys or eggs will get nothing from a manager of Tesco Express but the number of head office and a polite offer of good luck. Independents and convenience stores, however, can make a decision on what to sell quickly and without involving a seemingly endless stream of buyers.
Yet the massive number of hurdles the multiples place in front of their suppliers are not without purpose and are often there to protect the health and safety of consumers and guarantee the continuity of supply needed to make a line successful. Small retailers can be more flexible but they must also must be careful to guarantee public safety.
As a retailer you are responsible for the safety of everything sold in your store and must be in full compliance with the latest EU hygiene legislation, which came into force in January 2006.
The Food Standards Agency has published a useful guide for retailers called Safer Food Better Business, to explain what must be done to comply with the law and has just granted local authorities £1m to help distribute the guide and offer training to small retailers.
The FSA hopes to distribute about 50,000 copies to help small retailers deal not only with hygiene issues that arise from retailers' own practices but those that result when dealing with local suppliers.
The key, says the FSA, is that "the starting point for making sure food is safe is being confident about the safety of the products you buy in".
The guide offers an easy-to-follow checklist for retailers on what they need to do and what they need to ask of their suppliers. The FSA instructs retailers to choose their suppliers carefully and make sure that any goods have been handled safely by that supplier.
As retailers are acutely aware, public safety is paramount and any mistake could prove to be a costly one. It makes sound business sense to ensure that what graces your shelves is safe and sound.