'Holland & Barrett doesn't care about suppliers' says small business commissioner as company slammed for payment practices

'Holland & Barrett doesn't care about suppliers' says small business commissioner as company slammed for payment practices
Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Mon 8th Apr 2019

Health food business Holland & Barrett has been publicly criticised by the man tasked by the government with helping small businesses deal with unpaid bills by big companies.

Paul Uppal, the small business commissioner, hit out in a report after a small technology consultancy complained that the retailer failed to pay a £15,000 invoice within the agreed payment terms. It took 67 days to be paid, instead of the agreed 30 days.

Uppal contacted Holland & Barrett to discuss its payment practices, but the company refused to meet him.

This is despite data showing that it takes an average of 68 days to pay their invoices and 60% of invoices were not paid within agreed terms.

"Holland & Barrett doesn't care about its suppliers"

Uppal said: "Holland & Barrett's refusal to co-operate with my investigation, as well as their published poor payment practices says to me that this is a company that doesn't care about its suppliers or take prompt payment seriously.
"The request for anonymity by the business owner demonstrates small businesses remain in fear of challenging large businesses on their payment practices for fear of retribution.

"This should be a warning to suppliers that I will keep a spotlight on businesses that are not addressing late payment and use the powers available to me to highlight poor payment practice."

Rachel Reeves MP, chair of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, added: "Consumers would be appalled to hear that a big name on the high-street such as Holland & Barrett is treating their suppliers so shabbily.

"It is outrageous that a company takes on average 68 days to pay its invoices and pays 60 percent of them outside of agreed terms.
"These actions show that it is not only a Parliamentary Committee and the small business commissioner which Holland & Barrett hold in contempt but small businesses too.

"The behaviour of Holland & Barrett in these instances underlines the BEIS Committee's call for companies who flout the rules to not only be named and shamed but also subject to fines."

A spokesperson for Holland & Barrett told the Guardian: "Our agreed payment terms are a standard 90 days, although in fact our average payment time is around 60 days.

"This is a single complaint and is in relation to one invoice for £15,000 for an IT supplier that was lost in our payment process in the run-up to the busy Christmas period. Once we established what had happened we resolved it very quickly.

"We work hard to help many of our suppliers with easy payment arrangements as many of them are small and just entering the market.

"Beauty Kitchen, for example, is one of a number of new and smaller suppliers where we have zero-day payment terms or payment by return to assist with their cashflow."

Figures indicate that that up to a trillion pounds a year is tied up in unpaid bills and analysis of two million invoices by Xero showed that the average British small business is owed £24,841 in late payments on any given day.

Related advice:

How to maximise your company's cashflow and save money
How to chase your business' debts and get the cash in

Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance content creator and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I have 18 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from billionaires like Sir Richard Branson to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community and have strong connections to major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 50 events; from intimate meet-ups to conferences with an audience of hundreds including events for international brands like Facebook and Xero. I'm also a big fan of podcasts having hosted Enterprise Nation's Small Business Sessions as well as lots of online events including Facebook Live interviews, webinars and three live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography. I'm here to help. I'm volunteering free advice calls of up to an hour as part of the Recovery Advice for Business scheme, over the next 6 months. Please get in touch to see how I can help your business. 

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