This story goes back a bit. Last March Surinder Rai (Rais Superstore, Bedford) got a default notice from Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) telling him that he was in breach of his agreement regarding his chilled soft drinks display.
In July they wrote again telling him that, after visiting his premises in April, they saw he was still breaching the agreement by stocking other companies’ products in CCEP coolers.
He rang me in August to see if intervention might help. He said he had had three Coca-Cola coolers for the past 10 years and he couldn’t find his contract. CCEP had asked him to co-operate with the removal - or a court order would be obtained.
He sent me pictures of his displays which any retailer would be proud of: three double-door brightly-badged Coca-Cola multi-deck coolers taking up the length of a whole aisle. I could clearly see that a lot of the product was Coca-Cola’s. It would positively ruin the store if these were to be ripped out and they would probably then be written off anyway.
I put this to CCEP and a spokesperson responded: “When any of our chilled equipment is placed and maintained in a retail outlet the contractual agreement includes a compliance stipulation around the space allocated to our brands. These stipulations fall within legal guidelines.
“If these compliance metrics are not adhered to we will, as a last resort, remove our equipment. However, our preferred course of action is always to work with a retailer to come to a resolution that ensures our equipment remains in the outlet.
“We have met with Mr Rai on numerous occasions since the beginning of the year to discuss our agreement. We would absolutely like to continue our working relationship with Mr Rai and a senior member of our field sales team will be in touch to discuss a resolution and agree on new contractual terms moving forward.”
I checked back a little later and Surinder had had a visit and was told he could keep the equipment, but he would be responsible for the maintenance. They said they would confirm this. He was so concerned about the paperwork that I sat on the story for a few months waiting for it to turn up.
But now, even without the paperwork, he is confident that CCEP will leave well enough alone. He says that Anthony Burgess (a senior member of the field sales team) made the trip all the way from London and had kept in touch since via WhatsApp. He had been most impressed with Surinder’s pristine presentation and the cleanliness of the coolers and said it should never have got to the point where he was threatened with their removal.
Surinder is now entirely happy with the result and reckons that CCEP is about to upgrade their coolers now to the latest LED ones and that his, although in perfectly good condition, will be obsolete.