In her end-of-term report, Christine Tacon – the UK’s first GCA – highlighted the impact of her work and how the sector had changed since the Groceries Supply Code of Practice was introduced 10 years ago.
During her time in the role, suppliers have grown in size and confidence under the protection of the Code, allowing them to work more closely with retailers and secure larger contracts.
“There is stronger and more effective communication between retailers and suppliers; this is a significant change, the value of which has been apparent in the current coronavirus crisis and the resultant need to maintain very efficient supply chains,” said Tacon.
“Suppliers feel more able to challenge the retailers to get the best joint solutions – no longer is the response ‘how high?’ when the retailers ask them to jump.”
Original tenure extended
Tacon’s comments came as she approached the end of her tenure as GCA. The Government recently announced plans that she would continue in the role for six months beyond her agreed contract to specifically deal with issues arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I will leave the GCA in the knowledge that, by working with the sector, I have shifted the regulated retailers from practice-based compliance to enduring culture change, driving effective compliance risk management at all levels in every regulated business,” Tacon added.
“This should ensure that breaches don’t happen and that, if they do, they are quickly picked up and put right.”
The groceries sector has become more competitive since the introduction of the Code, with three more retailers now exceeding annual turnover of £1bn. This greater level of competitiveness has gone hand in hand with Tacon’s work to secure fast payments for suppliers, with the top 10 retailers reportedly paying 93–100% of their invoices on time.
“Working between retailers and suppliers has become more efficient,” added Tacon. “For example, the business practices implemented in response to inconsistencies arising as a result of drop and drive have eliminated masses of paperwork, as well as reducing time wasted on challenges.
“I believe my success has come from the unique way I established of working with the retailers. I have taken a collaborative approach, which should also be at the heart of healthy supplier-retailer relationships.”
Tacon also felt that the Code – coupled with the changes in culture and behaviour she had encouraged – had provided the foundations for the excellent reaction of the groceries supply chain to the coronavirus emergency.
“The regulated groceries retailers and their suppliers overwhelmingly responded with the best interests of the consumer at the heart of everything they did and there has been a high level of communication between them throughout.”
Tacon will exit the role at the end of this year at the latest.
Meanwhile, last month, some major grocery retailers have reversed all supplier delistings made at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, while others are considering making them permanent, according to the GCA.