UK's large retailers increase bill paying period

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sainsbury's Uk

The UK's largest food retailers last year increased the time they
take to pay their bills by seven days, putting more pressure on
their suppliers.

The increase is perhaps one indication that the market dominance of the UK's four largest food retailers is effecting their leverage over the processors that supply them.

By delaying the time they take to pay their suppliers companies can increase their working capital to fund their operations. But such a plan puts financial pressure on their suppliers.

On average UK food retailers took about 59.54 days to pay their suppliers' bills last year, close to the 60-day average taken by other sectors of industry, Experian International said in a report released this week.

The time taken by food retailers on average was a decrease of five days compared to 2004. However when food retailing sector is segmented by size of business, the figures show that the UK's largest companies had increased their payment time by seven days to 84 days, compared to the average of 80.64 days on average for large companies in other sectors.

Medium-sized food retailers took 52 days on average to pay their bills, an eight day decline compared to 2004 and below the 60.4 day average for similar businesses in other sectors. Small food retailers took 59 days to pay their bills, below the average of 59.2 days.

The UK-based consultancy's annual survey shows that on average UK businesses are still taking two months - 60 days - to pay their bills, almost exactly the same as a year earlier.

"Seven years after the introduction of the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act, which was intended to speed up payments, the average time UK companies take to pay their bills is still two days longer than before the legislation was introduced,"​ Experian stated.

Experian's findings are based on a study of the payment patterns of 366,633 companies. The report shows that large companies have extended the time they take to pay their suppliers - usually much smaller than they are - even further and take an average of 80.6 days, compared with 80.3 days a year earlier.

Large companies take an average of 21.4 days longer to pay their bills than small companies and 20 days longer than medium-sized companies.

The food, drink and tobacco sectors took 2.67 days on average longer to pay their bills to their suppliers, bringing them up to 61.98 days.

Beer, wines and spirits companies decreased the time they took to pay their bills by 2.68 days, bringing the sector down to an average of 61.01 days.

Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury and Morrisons hold an almost 75 per cent share of the UK's food retail market. Tesco holds a 30.5 share of the market as at 1 January according to figures from market analysis TNS. Asda holds a 16.7 per cent share, Sainsbury's a 16.2 per cent share and Morrisons a 11.3 per cent share.

"It has been proven time and again that late payment by customers plays a major part in the failure of some companies and, of course, a rapidly deteriorating payment trend is very often a warning sign that a company is in financial difficulties and heading towards insolvency,"​ stated Richard Lloyd, Experian's managing director of business information. "Companies owe it to their shareholders and employees to ensure that they protect themselves from customers that simply pay late and those that are suffering cash flow problems by checking the payment record of prospects and customers - even if they've been customers for years."

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