One month on from the end of Costcutter’s distribution link with Nisa, what have we learned?

The picture is mixed, but one way to look at it is to balance performance against expectations. Bearing in mind the scale and complexity of the changeover, only the most optimistic of people would have expected the P&H/BuyCo system to work like clockwork straight away. But as I write this, many retailers have been operating under the new set-up for much longer than a month, and are still a long way away from receiving the service they were promised, and have every right to expect.

Amongst the retailers I have spoken to or who have left a message on our website message boards, there is not one who is currently getting what would in any other circumstances be called an acceptable service level. But this patience cannot be considered limitless. In retailing as a whole, and particularly in convenience retailing, availability isn’t just the most important thing, it is everything. The best pricing, service and community focus in the world cannot sell a customer an empty shelf. So amongst all the promises about better prices, more transparency, and a customer-determined range, there should perhaps have been a higher priority set on getting the basics (the top 500 lines perhaps?) into every delivery and every store. To miss this should not be seen as acceptable.

The dream scenario for independent retailing is about being the master of your own destiny, while at the same time being able to fall back on the support of an efficient and understanding marketing, buying and supplying network. This remains a possible outcome of the Costcutter/BuyCo/P&H set-up, but even after a month there is still an awful lot to prove.