Coronavirus: wholesalers urge caterers to pay bills so supply chains can stay open

FWD and SWA letter

Food and drink distributors have asked their catering and hospitality customers to use government funding to settle outstanding invoices and help keep vital supply chains open.

In an open letter to 350,000 restaurants, cafes, pubs, hotels and leisure facilities, members of the Scottish Wholesale Association and Federation of Wholesale Distributors say that although some of them are facing huge reductions in turnover since the closure of the hospitality sector, they are maintaining distribution networks to hospitals, care homes, critical workplaces and local stores, as well as takeaways and home delivery customers. They ask that catering businesses help by paying for stock purchased before the lockdown.

The wholesalers said: “The majority of your businesses are temporarily closed but when the time comes to re-open we will be there, along with our supplier partners, to work alongside you and help reignite our economy.”

Those businesses told by government to close their doors are receiving up to £25,000 in support from local authorities via the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund, with payments beginning to be made this week.

The letter said: “We’re asking you to allocate some of that assistance you receive to paying your bills for the stock we’ve already delivered to you.

“The majority of our businesses are regional and independent, and whatever size they are, all have relationships with you which go far beyond delivery. If wholesalers can’t purchase new stock, you will lose more than that relationship – you will lose the flexibility, the knowledge of your businesses, and the diversity in your supply options that wholesalers offer.

“Paying outstanding invoices for goods you have already received will allow us to pay our suppliers and keep the wheels of this industry turning.”

The letter is signed by Julie Dunn, President SWA; Colin Smith, Chief Executive SWA; Coral Rose Chairman FWD; and James Bielby, Chief Executive FWD.

The letter in full

To our customers

Please pay your bills so we can support vital services

Covid-19 is a challenge to all of us in the food supply chain, and as your wholesale distribution partners we are doing all we can to protect the amazing diversity of food businesses like yours we supply and support across the country.

The majority of your businesses are temporarily closed but when the time comes to re-open we will be there, along with our supplier partners, to work alongside you and help reignite our economy.

Our distribution networks have never been more important to our customers that remain open, like hospitals, care homes, critical workplaces and local stores.

Last week, more than £3bn was transferred from Government to local authorities. Many of you will be receiving grants for your business and cash will flow into our industry. Your wholesalers can help ensure you have access to these hugely-deserved funds.

Wholesalers have received none of the grants put aside for hospitality and leisure business, but they are still open, supplying vital services like the NHS, emergency services and care homes. That is made so much harder given the massive sales losses from the Government-enforced closure of businesses like yours, while our running costs stay much the same.

Many wholesalers are extending debt to pay suppliers, so they will be still be there to supply the stock you need when the time comes to open your doors again.

We are coming together with one message: please ensure that the financial aid coming from Government moves up the supply chain. We’re asking you to allocate some of that assistance you receive to paying your bills for the stock we’ve already delivered to you.

The majority of our businesses are small, regional and independent, but whatever their size, all have relationships with you which go far beyond delivery. If wholesalers start to struggle, you will lose more than that relationship – you will lose the flexibility, the knowledge of your businesses, and the diversity in your supply options that wholesalers offer.

Paying outstanding invoices for goods you have already received will allow us to pay our suppliers and keep the wheels of this industry turning. And if you haven’t been able to sell those goods, we can help you either sell to consumers or to one of the organisations feeding the vulnerable at this difficult time.

We want to be there to support your business when this is over, but we need the Government’s assistance to flow through the industry to ensure that together we play a core role in the UK’s economic recovery and growth.

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