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News - 11 November 2006

Whatever happened to business ethics?

New legislation forcing large organisations to pay their suppliers on time seems to have opened the floodgates for a number of large retailers to squeeze margins and force up payment terms. A number of well-known retailers have been named and shamed by the Forum of Private Business (FPB).

Some retailers have become so big and powerful that the concept of nurturing relationships with suppliers because one day they may need a favour doesn’t seem to wash any more. If you are big enough and powerful enough you can always get someone else to do you a favour.

The Chief Executive of the Forum of Private Business (FPB), Nick Goulding, has openly exposed the allegedly underhand dealings of a number of high street and out-of-town retailers.

Speaking at a Retail Week conference on Thursday (2 November 2006) Goulding said that in an effort to increase profit margins, large retailers were bullying suppliers out of business.

The FPB alleges that essentially large retail organisations are demanding higher discounts for paying their bills on time and in some cases simultaneously extending payment terms. These new terms are not negotiated and suppliers refusing to accept them are simply black-listed.

The full list of retailers is published on the FPB web site and it includes many household names.  The FPB is calling on people to contribute evidence of any unethical practices that they have experienced.


The list makes interesting reading and the organisations need to be complimented on the range of creative ways to say ‘we plan to squeeze your margins in order to improve our own.’ From aligning with industry ‘best practice’ to 'supplier rationalisation programmes' the excuses are hilarious.

However, the prize for the most imaginative use of language goes to one company in particular for saying “We are reviewing areas of business with a particular focus on working capital management.” In plain English this means, “We will be doubling payment terms to 60 days and adding a further 2% discount for paying on time!”

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