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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Tim Atkin MW

Suppliers to First Quench are up in arms following the receipt of a letter asking for a contribution of 1,000 per line towards the company's ongoing investment programme'. The letter, written by supply chain director Stuart Higgins, was sent out in early January to all of First Quench's major suppliers, and details investment in merchandising equipment, optimisation of store ranges, face-lifted stores, sharpened promotional programmes and national radio advertising'. The sting in the letter's tail comes when Higgins informs suppliers that in order to reflect the shared nature of the benefits that will derive from these initiatives, First Quench is charging all ongoing suppliers a one-off distribution levy'. The 1,000 per product levy is to be charged against suppliers' bills, if there is an available balance', or invoiced to them. Leading suppliers have been in contact with each other over the past week, but have ruled out taking a joint stand. It's a bit rich,' one supplier told Harpers. The investments they've made have been in trying to make their business more efficient; they've got nothing to do with promoting brands. We're happy to spend money promoting brands, but not helping First Quench with their overheads. After all, I can't charge them for our new computer system or a new lorry to deliver wine to their warehouses.' Higgins and CEO David Williams were both unavailable for comment.