Hider Foods MD assures customers and suppliers that distributor is back on track
Distributor Hider Foods has moved to reassure both its independent retail customers and its suppliers that the business is back on track after a troubled 18-month period of trading.
Speaking exclusively to FFD, managing director Duncan Hider acknowledged that the business had let down both customers and producers but said that comprehensive refinancing and correcting major issues with its IT system had put the distributor in a better position.
Addressing some rumours in the industry about the business being unable to trade, Hider told FFD said it was “categorically” not true.
“Our refinance puts us in a good position, so that is not the case at all,” he said. “We have had our challenges but we are a very strong business.
“I do understand that ultimately the rumours come on the back of poor service and poor payments.
“We have had a tough time, I’m not denying that.”
Hider said that issues with order fulfilment, stock requests and cashflow occurred largely due to problems with implementing a company-wide IT system that was first installed about 12 months ago. He added that Brexit, coronavirus, and a comprehensive range rationalisation had also impacted on operations.
“In hindsight, we actively tried to do too much in the year,” he said.
At some points, fulfilment was as low 20%, and Hider estimates that the overall loss caused to the business was nearly £1m.
He said: “We had a fairly unpleasant period where we were letting down customers and giving suppliers very little information as to what we needed from them.”
During August, the distributor hopes to be back to 95% order fulfilment and ready for the busy run-in towards the festive selling season.
“The team are committed here, the restructure is sorted, our IT system – in terms of fulfilment – is as good as it’s been historically,” he said. “We should have no issue with delivering Christmas, although we are still dependent on our suppliers.”
Hider said he understood that some producers had not been getting paid as promptly as he would have liked but that cashflow was being improved all the time by a refinancing move that includes a £5m facility from Bibby Financial Services.
“A combination of delisting and slowing down payments will have irritated some suppliers and I understand that. That is not something we wanted to happen.”
“In the same way, we are being very supportive of 1,500 independent retailers who will be struggling. We are seeing an increase in bad debts coming in to us.”