FMCG distributors in Maharashtra are planning to stop selling select products of leading firm HUL from January 1, as the company has not engaged in talks with them over the issue of price disparity between traditional distributors and organised B2B distributors.
However, HUL said their arrangements with their distributor partners are “not exclusive” and said the prices offered by them to various channels, such as General Trade, Modern Trade, eCom and Cash & Carry B2B, could be different depending on factors such as cost of operations and channels structures.
An HUL spokesperson said, “We sell and distribute our products across all channels such as General Trade, Modern Trade, eCom, Cash & Carry B2B, etc, to make it convenient for our shoppers and consumers to buy our trusted brands.” However, based on shopper buying habits, channel structures and cost of operations the assortment offered could be different, the spokesperson added.
He further said as channels evolve, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) will continue to take up new initiatives with an objective to help scale up business for its distributors and to strengthen its distribution.
The development comes against the backdrop of the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) distributors seeking a “level-playing field” from the manufactures between traditional distributors and other organised business-to-business (B2B) distribution firms.
The All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation (AICPDF), a body that represents dealers and distributors, is in negotiation with several FMCG makers. It had earlier called for a “non-cooperation” movement against FMCG companies from next year if B2B retailers, such as Jiomart, Walmart, Metro Cash & Carry, Booker, ElasticRun and udaan, continue to sell the products at lesser prices.
However, the AICPDF, which represents over four lakh distributors and stockists across the country, said it has received responses from several FMCG makers over the issue except for HUL, which is not responding.
Its Maharashtra distributors had decided not to sell HUL’s Kissan brand of products. If the company does not respond in the next one week, it will also stop selling HUL’s products under Glow & Lovely and Ron brands.
However, HUL said it has a long-standing relationship with its distributors that is based on trust and mutuality of interest.
“Our distributors have overwhelmingly conveyed to us that they will rebuff any attempts to create a wedge between the company and our trusted distributors,” an HUL spokesperson said.
General trade (GT) continues to be the company’s largest channel and our distributors (redistribution stockists) are and will remain its valued partners, it said.
“We remain fully committed to ensuring that our distributors earn a fair return on their investments and in enhancing capabilities in our GT network,” said HUL.
Earlier, the AICPDF had written to companies informing that B2B retailers are offering FMCG products to the retailers and local shops at lower products, what they offer and it is now “adversely affecting” their reputation and goodwill.
“Hence, our demand is that we also receive those products at prices at which we can also offer the same prices as Jio Mart/ B2B companies,” the association had said in an open letter to FMCG companies.
Moreover, the AICPDF had also said its members will also “not launch any new product of the company” unless it gets an undertaking from the FMCG makers that the said product is not available with B2B retailers.