Retailers continue to improve behaviour, adjudicator says

There was a new record low in the number of suppliers who experienced Code-related issues in the past year
There was a new record low in the number of suppliers who experienced Code-related issues in the past year

The UK's retailers have continued to improve their behaviour towards suppliers despite the pandemic and Brexit, the Groceries Code Adjudicator's survey has found.

Suppliers have reported the highest level of compliance with the Groceries Supply Code of Practice by supermarkets, surpassing even the record results of 2020.

According to the eighth GCA annual survey which takes a comprehensive look at the groceries sector, retailers are performing at a high level.

There was a new record low in the number of suppliers who experienced Code-related issues in the past year - down to 29% compared to 36% in 2020.

Suppliers even reported a fall in all issues covered by the Code, with just one exception.

When described in supplier language only requests for lump sum payments relating to better to better positioning in a retailer’s virtual store increased as a concern - by 1%.

This year suppliers responded in record numbers to the annual survey, making up 2,398 of the overall total of 2,598.

Groceries Code Adjudicator Mark White said: "They provided frank answers to my questions and as a result I have an extremely comprehensive view of the sector, how the retailers are performing and suppliers’ concerns for the months ahead.

“I believe it is a testimony to the Code’s positive influence that we continue to see such significant improvements in a year of massive challenge for the sector.”

As in previous years suppliers were asked to give an overall assessment of how they believe each retailer complies with the Code to provide a clear measure for benchmarking progress.

Mr White said: “Every year since 2014, when the percentage range for mostly or consistently complying with the Code was between 58% and 90%, the survey has shown marked improvement.

“In 2021 suppliers see more retailers performing at high levels. It really is now extremely tight at the top with more than half the retailers scoring 95% or more (compared with one in 2020).

"Iceland was the sole performer below 90% but on the positive side the retailer has risen 5% in the year to 86%."

According to the survey, Sainsbury’s scored an all-time high of 98 percent, and close behind were Co-op and Aldi on 97 percent.

Aldi, which has been the top-ranked retailer for the past seven years, did rank highest when suppliers were asked whether the retailers conducted trading relationships fairly, in good faith and without duress.

This year suppliers were asked whether they had experienced Brexit-related retrospective or unilateral changes to supply agreements - which was reported by 8% of suppliers.

They were also asked to comment on what they thought would be the main issues in the next six to twelve months.

The overwhelming response to this question was Brexit – of 958 suppliers who provided a comment, it was mentioned by 400.

Other strongly-identified issues were Covid-19 (mentioned by 255) and price (mentioned by 143), followed by range reviews, forecasting and de-listing.