Groceries Code progress is slammed by AIMS

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Huge progress in supermarket supplier relationships claimed by the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) has been described as “fanciful”. 

Norman Bagley, head of policy at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), said he didn’t believe that the Adjudicator would have any real long-term impact without statutory teeth which seems somewhat unlikely in an age of deregulation.

“If anyone thinks the GCA is going to make a long-lasting and fundamental difference to the vast majority of trading relationships I suspect they are in dreamland. There might be some minor fines, but without regulatory teeth its influence is somewhat overstated. That is not to say it is not doing good things – far from it – but there are some unrealistic expectations.

“With Tesco’s mammoth debt classified as ‘junk’ and needing to find £5bn to help balance the books according to the rating agencies and fighting the other big retailers for survival, I’m not sure the GCA is too far up the priority list.”

He did add that those members of AIMS who supply local products to the retailers did enjoy a pretty solid working relationship with the multiples due to the nature of their local product. “The products these suppliers provide are often niche, so once the supermarkets are making their margin, there’s no problem but if that changes, everything changes as we all know.”

In a YouGov survey, carried out on behalf of the GCA in June, it was revealed that the number of suppliers reporting issues related to the Groceries Supply Code of Practice in their dealings with retailers had dropped from 79% in 2014 to 70% this year. The survey also showed that Aldi was deemed to be the best when it came to complying with the code, with Waitrose following closely behind. Iceland was at the bottom of the table in terms of compliance with Morrisons second-worst.

Fear of retribution

Adjudicator Christine Tacon had said her “collaborative approach” was making a difference, but the survey of more than 1,000 suppliers revealed that, of the 20% that wouldn’t raise an issue with the GCA, two-thirds attributed this to fear of retribution.

Bagley said this statistic summed up the entire issue with the GCA process.

“Any supplier in the retail sector is not in a comfortable position as there is a narrow customer base that they feel they cannot speak out against. No action from the Groceries Code Adjudicator is going to change that.”

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