Monday 16 March 2015

Diageo U-turn on threat to extend supplier payment times - a step on the way to fair-play?

According to The Telegraph, Diageo has reversed its intention to extend the number of days it takes to make payments from 60 days to 90 days on all new contracts and tenders. In doing so, they have reduced the likelihood of being quoted by retailers as an excuse to extend their payment terms to a new 'norm' of 90 days...

However, this move again highlights the inadequacies of the Prompt Payment Code.

Whilst ‘Prompt payment’ and ‘On-time payment’ can focus attention on the pressures caused by extended credit, I believe that these conditions miss the point in commercial relationships. The issues are the length of time taken to pay, and that suppliers are having to contribute to the working capital of a customer by giving free credit in excess of the time taken for the customer to convert their output into cash i.e. Trade credit was originally intended to bridge the gap between supply of a product to a retailer and payment by a shopper.

In the case of supplier-retailer relationships, a retailer is usually more powerful than its suppliers and often has access to a number of different sources of supply for the same type of product. This means that the retailer is usually in a position to dictate terms of payment on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis, i.e. 30, 60, 90 or even 120 days, if they prefer.

Whilst the Prompt Payment Code has recently been strengthened by introducing a 60 day maximum payment term, and enshrining a 30 day payment term as a norm for all signatories as standard practice, the fact remains that payment period should reflect the time taken between delivery and resale in order to qualify as 'fair-play' trade credit.

In other words, different categories should have different payment times, e.g. Perishables should be paid for more quickly i.e. say 5-10 days, whilst goods that have a retail stockturn of 12 times per annum - 30 days stock - should be paid in 35 days.

With UK Multiples holding an average of 20 days stock, their average payment periods should not exceed 25 days...

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