I had what I regarded as an odd complaint about Booker Cash and Carry. Alvin Wilkinson, who runs Countdown in Hornsea, near Bridlington in East Yorkshire, shops at Booker and stocks its Happy Shopper brand. However, near to him is a Premier store, which obviously also stocks Booker’s products. His complaint is that the Premier store is offering much better prices than he can and has highlighted the offers in a flyer distributed with the local paper.
“The Premier store has Cadbury chocolate bars at five for a £1,” Alvin tells me. “The best I can do is 25p each. Rice Krispies and Coco Pops are on offer for £1.69 and they cost me £1.72 to buy.” And there were plenty more examples where these came from.
“I think it’s grossly unfair,” adds Alvin. “I’m not only in competition with my local Asda and Tesco, but also with my own supplier.”
It is difficult for him because Hornsea, population 9,000, has more than its fair share of competition. The Premier store is new. Booker, with whom he has shopped for 15 years, is his closest depot. The next nearest, a Batleys, would add another 100 miles to the round trip.
When I questioned him further I discover that his is a general store, trading from 9-5, six days a week and with a somewhat eclectic merchandise mix that includes underwear, socks and pyjamas – largely to cater for a caravan site nearby. But now the caravanners have gone home, the kids have gone back to school and he has new competition nearby getting preferential treatment.
“The locals will walk out and go elsewhere,” he predicts.
I put it to him that if the shoe were on the other foot and he had just become a Booker Premier retailer himself, he might well expect a bit of preferential treatment in return. It is why Convenience Store has thumped a tub for years about trading longer hours and joining a group to offer a smarter image and yes, better prices.
He took the point, but it’s a very sore one.