Leading retailer Paul Cheema has called on Costcutter’s senior management to fix the crisis in the group’s supply chain “for the sake of the convenience store industry”.

Multi-award winner Paul, who chairs the group’s retailer forum and with his family was named Convenience Retailer of the Year in 2013, told C-Store that it was only the “fantastic job” being done by the Costcutter sales team that was keeping the group together.

Paul said that while delivery accuracy had improved in recent weeks, it still only stands at about 75%. “We’re not in a good place at the moment. Deliveries are getting better, but the biggest problem is the breakdown of communication - there is too much distance between the Buyco and Costcutter trading teams to be of any help to retailers. Our shelves are full, but that is only because we have other options for supply. If we didn’t have, we’d be really struggling.”

Paul also revealed that things had got so bad he was in discussions with other symbol groups, as well as considering the possibility of going it alone under the Malcolm’s brand, but hadn’t yet given up on Costcutter as he still believed in the strength of the original supply chain model.

“The best solution is little and often deliveries, with no charges. That’s what Costcutter promised and, to be fair, that’s what we’re getting, but we also need more transparency about the problems. Where are the owners in this? I don’t understand why Sir Michael Bibby isn’t on the phone to the retail membership to explain what the plan is. Someone’s got to take the lead, whether it is BuyCo or the Costcutter trading team, and do what is right for the members.

“Nobody wants this to fail, but you have to be realistic,” he added. “We are long-standing members and want it to work, but there comes a point where you have to say no more. They have to fix this pretty rapidly. They have to start listening to the membership.”