WHILE suppliers continue to complain about the ongoing delays from both retail groups in being allotted codes for new products and variants at this time of year, the retailers themselves are also facing major problems in maintaining stock levels. It’s a chicken and egg situation where the retail trade is saying that Christmas service levels are just not improving and it is taking up to three months after Christmas for some suppliers to fully get back to normal levels of supply.

So who really is responsible?
This is the busiest time of the year for the retail industry and certainly it is recognized that new products and price changes are just not on in those critical couple of weeks. But both sides should be able to do better during the Christmas season and be able to recover more quickly.

The moratoriums imposed by both major retail groups have now become the norm and they and suppliers know the approximate well in advance. A number of retail buyers spoken to by Supermarket News complain that there is a definite lack of planning by some suppliers despite this situation occurring year after year. And some suppliers, particularly the smaller distributors, say the supermarket buyers are closing off long before the moratoriums start. They are saying that getting codes even through September and October brings delays of weeks and is holding up product shipments and leaving products in warehouses as they hit the moratorium deadlines. This is subsequently creating post-Christmas problems as well.

The issue has been taken up by the FGC with a commitment to improving on-shelf availability and a programme with a fresh perspective for suppliers has been introduced by way of “Winning in January” toolkit being presented in one hour sessions by Kelly Smith.