Nisa-Today's chief executive Neil Turton has urged Costcutter to sign an extension to the company's partnership contract, but insisted that the distributor can comfortably survive were Costcutter to leave the organisation when the current deal ends in 2014.

The call comes in the wake of Costcutter executive chairman Colin Gravesís resignation from the Nisa-Today's board in protest at being excluded from meetings and the targeting of Costcutter members by Nisa sales personnel (C-Store, Oct 1, p4).

Turton told C-Store that a new extended contract, running until 2018, is currently on the table, giving improved rebates to Costcutter members for the same volumes, but also asking them to "abide by the same rules as other Nisa members". Significantly, the contract also includes a non-solicitation clause to encourage the sales teams of both groups to look elsewhere for potential new members.

When asked if he wanted Costcutter to renew its contract, Turton said "3,000% yes", but added: "While I genuinely want them to stay, we would not be fatally wounded if they left. We're 10% up this year, volume is going like a train, weíve paid off all short-term borrowings in our Scunthorpe warehouse, and will open a new one in Livingstone next month.

"Costcutter's total turnover of £0.5bn is roughly equivalent to the amount we have grown overall since 2006, so in a worst case scenario we would lose four years of growth. Costcutter deliveries are relatively small and contain a high proportion of tobacco, so we would actually be more efficient if we didn't have to do them. Weíd need some reorganisation, perhaps closing a warehouse, but we would be perfectly viable without Costcutter on board."

Turton also defended asking Colin Graves to "step out of the room" while Bibby matters were being discussed by the board.

"It's not possible for Costcutter, a Bibby subsidiary, to sit in the board room when we are discussing a hostile takeover bid by Bibby, or a Bibby distribution contract proposal. I think most people get that, but for some reason Colin has never accepted that there is a conflict of interest.

"When the bid was rejected, Sir Michael Bibby responded by talking about splitting Costcutter away from Nisa-Today's. We hope they dont, but we have to plan for it. Myself and the board have got to run the company fairly for 1,000 members, we canít be bullied by just one."