Ali Seedat admits to being a bit of a haggler - he’s got everything from cheaper car insurance to extremely competitive telecom rates that way. And, if you have a talent for this, you will usually gain because most reps are given a bit of leeway, some room to manoeuvre to win your business.
At his store, Fountain News in Leeds, he gets regular visits from the big confectionery companies - Mars, Nestlé and Kraft - and gets incentives from all three (says Nestlé is best at the moment, giving three outers of product every month he haggles with Kraft for freebies).
But he has recently taken exception to what he has labelled Mars’ “dictatorial” policy on what he must stock (or not stock) in order to qualify for the “gold standard” which earns him rebates.
He says that two years ago Mars put him on a different scheme and his monthly ‘bonus’ dropped from £15 to around £10. But he managed to build it up again. Now there is another new scheme which Ali claims will reduce his extra earnings from £18.90 down to £8.90.
He agreed to extra facings and dividers but he objected when he was told he couldn’t keep the Kinder egg display on his counter. He says: “Everyone is fighting for space, but it is a two-way street.”
Mars refutes doing anything other than to try to help Ali maximise sales.
Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager, Mars Chocolate UK, sent the following response: “Earlier this year we restructured our discretionary Retailer Reward Scheme. Mars and independent retailers have a shared ambition - to grow confectionery sales. Our updated reward scheme will help achieve this goal while giving retailers the opportunity to earn even more compared to our former scheme.
“Mars is committed to growing the category as a whole. We therefore encourage retailers to stock bestsellers regardless of whether or not Mars is the manufacturer, and to delist poor performers.
“Mars manufactures four of the top 10 best-selling singles, and we would therefore encourage retailers to reflect this in display space.”
So there it is in black and white - you are also encouraged to stock the other six brands not manufactured by Mars.
The company told me it would clarify this directly with Ali but had not done so some two weeks later. But we are both assuming it will be sorted when he gets his next monthly visit from the rep.