A Lincolnshire retailer claims he may be forced to close his two stores after Palmer & Harvey issued court proceedings for breach of contract after he pulled one of the shops out of Mace.

Nigel Pitman said P&H suspended the accounts for both of his shops in the village of Heckington after a direct debit failed last year due to an administrative error on his part. He then paid the outstanding amount and contacted P&H to resume deliveries, but the wholesaler told him it would only supply him on a cash-on-delivery basis.

“I was shocked because in all the years we had been dealing with them we had only ever missed two payments. I contacted my rep to try to resolve the matter and was told that our previous record meant nothing.” He added: “With a joint spend of £7,000 a week there was no way we could keep that much cash on the premises.”

Nigel said he wrote to P&H explaining that he would have to find another supplier if the issue could not be resolved. But P&H issued an invoice for £4,200 for ‘breach of contract’ after he switched the store to Spar last October.

“I contacted them again saying I believed they had breached contract by refusing to supply me. I even offered to pay the actual cost of the signage to resolve the matter,” he said.

However, P&H has now taken the matter to the courts. “If we have to pay this money we will definitely have to close, with the loss of seven jobs in the village. Palmer & Harvey has made no attempt to resolve the situation, which is of their own making. It is another example of a large organisation bullying a small business.”

A spokeswoman for P&H said: “We cannot comment on Mr Pitman’s case in detail but we can confirm that we have begun legal proceedings, following the early termination of the contract, to recover money owed for signage costs. Several attempts were made to resolve the outstanding issues amicably.

“The decision to start legal action is something we enter into as a last resort, and we only do this when all other avenues have failed. We look to resolve any issues with our customers as quickly as possible and advise any customer to get in touch with us as soon as they can if they have any concerns about their account.

“For any queries or concerns please contact your representative, local customer service team or call head office on 01273 222 100.”