By Janine Perrett

It is not often these days a news story grabs my attention as being one of those "now you don't see that very often" stories.

That was my reaction to the great Tim Tam war.

It is not simply that Coles and Arnotts are at loggerheads, and over a price rise, but that such usually private negotiations were being played out so publicly.

At first glance Coles seems to be the crusader for the consumer, knocking back Arnotts blatant cash grab with a big price hike on their product.

Then Coles asked Arnotts for the documentation to justify the price rise.

Arnotts retaliated by withholding stock including the precious Tim Tams.

Now this is something only another huge company could do to Coles. We know that small suppliers would have no such power.

Again, it would seem Coles was on a PR winner here which might explain why they suddenly went so public with their complaint against Arnotts, even trotting out spin doctors to accommodate media interviews.

However there are obviously many layers to this conflict; not the least being this glimpse into the way huge companies operate also highlights what little hope a small supplier would have in dealing with Coles' pricing practices.

It also comes at a time when the Federal Government is holding another review into the controversial "effects test" which would look at misuse of market power by large companies, namely the supermarket giants.

Coles standing up for the little guy is very timely.

Also the story is a little murkier when you hear that the affected Tim Tams are the specialist flavoured ones, which are not as big a seller as the traditional biscuits.

One assumes the ACCC and the pollies will be watching it and we wait to see who is the ultimate victor. There is no doubt Tim Tams will be back on the shelves of Coles at one stage but who will end up winning the PR war is another matter.

And consumers could be the short-term winners in the whole Dick Smith financial saga.

Analysts are predicting that the stores will hold a massive sale of up to 70% off stock, which is nearly as much as their share price lost this week.

I'm not sure this fire sale is the way to save the company. It certainly smacks of desperation but there's a lot of that going around in retail at the moment.