Cash and carries are providing better customer service than two years ago on all counts except product availability, according to new figures from research firm HIM’s Customer Tracking Programme.

The survey, now in its third year, found that customer
satisfaction at cash and carries had increased for prices, promotions, fresh food and speed of service compared to last year, but product availability had not improved.

Over 4,000 retailers visiting the branches of 15 of the UK’s biggest cash and carry operators were interviewed for the study during June 2005. It found that 26% of retailers failed to buy an item they had intended to, largely due to out of stocks, with confectionery the product category most frequently missing from shelves.

With 80% of customers saying they would “go without” or “go elsewhere” if they failed to buy a particular product on their list, HIM’s chief executive Tom Fender suggested that it was time for cash and carries to consider offering availability guarantees to customers.

He said: “An availability guarantee on, say, the top 100 lines would be great PR. The retail chains that offer guarantees on items such as bread and milk have the best product availability in the industry.”

A quarter of cash and carry customers said they bought products from supermarkets for resale, with one in three saying they used supermarkets as a source each week. Nearly half (45%) of retailers bought goods on promotion. Around one in six retailers were members of symbol groups.

Northern Landmark member Parfetts Cash & Carry came out as best in the eyes of customers, based on speed and quality of service, and friendliness and knowledgeability of staff.