Christine Tacon

Christine Tacon

UK supermarkets have achieved a record improvement in their dealings with groceries suppliers, according to Christine Tacon’s final GCA survey.

Early analysis of suppliers’ responses to the annual groceries sector survey shows that retailer compliance with the Groceries Supply Code of Practice is at an all-time high, the adjudicator's office announced this week.

A record of nearly 1,500 direct suppliers to the 13 regulated retailers completed the survey, with just 36 per cent saying they had experienced a code-related issue at any point in the past 12 months, down from 41 per cent in 2019.

The survey period included three weeks when the sector was facing the challenge of huge increases in consumer buying of certain products as the Covid-19 emergency hit. Despite that, this year's figure is substantially down from the 79 per cent of suppliers who reported issues in the first survey in 2014.

Direct suppliers recognised improvements across every code-related issue, GCA reported. The most common issues experienced by suppliers in 2020 related to forecasting, delay in payments and delisting, though each of these is now at its lowest reported level, at 13, 12 and 12 per cent respectively.

In comparison, 35 per cent of suppliers reported experiencing delay in payments in 2014, 33 per cent experienced issues with forecasting and 22 per cent with delisting. The most reported issue in 2014 – forensic auditing – which 45 per cent of suppliers highlighted, is now at just 5 per cent.

Tacon said: 'This is my final survey as GCA as I will be stepping down later in 2020 after seven years in the role and it tells an extremely positive story. I am delighted to report that in a year when an additional retailer – TJ Morris – was included in the survey and the sector faced the challenge of Covid-19 my survey demonstrates that UK supermarkets continue to make substantial progress.

'The survey period included three weeks when the sector was under huge pressure but the data shows no adverse impact on compliance with the code as retailers and suppliers raced to keep supermarket shelves filled. Indeed it corroborates my own discussions with the retailers who have told me not one supplier has raised an issue with their code compliance officers or asked for an issue to be escalated. I made it clear in my position statement issued on 17 March that suppliers should not wait to raise issues with retailers.

'This is a testament to the stronger and more effective communication between retailers and suppliers which the GCA has fostered over the past seven years and which has proved so valuable during this emergency. It also demonstrates that the code has provided the flexibility retailers need to maintain a vital and efficient supply chain that is getting groceries to the consumer.'

Tacon added that the GCA is continuing to analyse the details of the survey carried out by YouGov and will publish more information, including how suppliers rank the retailers for code compliance, in the coming week.