The wholesale industry must mount a rapid and potent price offensive in reply to the emerging supermarket price war started by Tesco last week, independent retailers have said.

Tesco has sensationally slashed the price of thousands of essential grocery items, from milk and pasta to fresh fruit and vegetables, as part of the Big Price Drop. It is promising many more cuts to follow as it moves away from multi-buy promotions.

The majority of the price cuts will be made across Tesco’s own label lines.

Paresh Patel of Cockburn Convenience in London said the livelihoods of independent retailers, particularly the unaffiliated, would be put in jeopardy if wholesalers did not retaliate fast.

“I am really concerned by this latest bout of price-cutting as it won’t just spark a price war with the big four supermarkets. It’s also likely to suck in some of the symbol groups, too, making it even harder for unaffiliated independents such as myself to compete,” he said. 

Last week Budgens announced that it was investing £13m to cut prices on 1,000s of products to match Tesco for price on 300 popular branded goods. 

“We need the wholesalers to put on more £1 lines across the grocery category, and not just on toiletries and household goods,” added Paresh. “We also need more big-brand promotions. If Tesco’s price cuts are focusing on own label products, then enabling independents to offer attractive branded promotions will be key,” he said.

Wholesaler Bestway said it would do its utmost to support its retail members through the pricing blitz.

“We will to continue to respect and support independents, and come up with more and more of the best deals that money can buy for them,” said Younus Sheikh, managing director of the Bestway Wholesale Group.
Booker also moved to reassure its independent customers, vowing to concentrate all of its efforts in delivering value for its retailers.