Suppliers reel after B&Q axe

B&Q has cut its supplier base. Perhaps no surprise given the pressure on buyers to cut costs, boost profits and raise the share price. But what does this mean for the nurseries that have seen their paymaster abandon them?

They are more angry than they are letting on and there are more of them than B&Q will say. One grower told us that sacking the supplier halfway through him growing a crop shows little understanding of how growers work. Another we know of supplies a large part of its crop to B&Q. Dobbies has consolidated suppliers and the Garden Centre Group could go the same way.

A supermarket ombudsman, as campaigned for by the late Derf Paton and the NFU, could help. But legislation on how big retailers treat suppliers is being attacked by ... big retailers. A draft bill including a groceries code adjudicator reflects manifesto promises by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. But Asda, Sainsbury's, the British Retail Consortium and the Co-op all told a Commons select committee earlier this month that a proposed groceries code adjudicator would burden supermarkets and raise prices.

The NFU and various pressure groups say supermarkets have increased profits during recession by squeezing smaller suppliers and suggest that the bill could address this issue. West Cornwall MP Andrew George of the Grocery Market Action Group backs calls for an adjudicator.

The NFU says a climate of fear prevents growers and farmers from complaining about retail bullying. It wants an ombudsman to hear anonymous complaints and impose fines. Several growers would not talk to HW for fear of losing future business with B&Q. That climate of fear could end with an ombudsman.

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