Yes, I know, you could quote me saying the Grocery Code Adjudicator (GCA) has no real teeth. And yes, I’ve quoted suppliers who say: “invoke GSCOP? I might as well torch my factory”. Look, the code of practice is a move in the right direction and some successes are visible. But speaking yesterday with Adjudicator Christine Tacon, it’s clear just how spectacularly suppliers are losing the lobbying battle.
The truth is suppliers are just too nervous; after all, the first step is to complain to the person who just mugged you. While suppliers cower in the shadows, retailers are engaging, influencing and schmoozing the whole shooting match. All of the retailer code compliance officers meet deferentially with the GCA quarterly; CEOs are engaged too. The elders speak of small numbers of issues that are all being dealt with internally. Lovely. It’s a whitewash! Retailers are now lining up with the code prior to taking action on swinging distribution cuts; checking on reasonable notice, etc. Meanwhile, poor Ms Tacon has to invest hours in meals and factory visits with individual suppliers to even get into a conversation about retailer wrongdoing.
At Sentinel, we advise suppliers in their dealings with customers and I regularly hear their tales of woe. Christine, these are the big ones that will emerge in the survey: 1) Penalties for non-delivery after ordering-up at the last minute. 2) Incorrect backdated requests for payments and charges. 3) Requirements to fund retailer margin shortfall, make lump sum and marketing payments above those agreed at the start of the contract. 4) Incorrect deductions without notice – they hold your money while conducting a spurious query. On that last one, though, battles have been won by using the ‘payment on time’ aspect of the code.
If you feel aggrieved about any of the treatment you have received from your customers, then Google ‘yougov grocery suppliers tell us what you think’ and complete the survey. It takes 10 minutes and it is totally anonymous. Don’t be nervous about identifying the size and category etc – remember the GCA is statutorily bound to protect your anonymity. This is a cry for input from the losing side – you! Don’t waste it. The survey closes on 23 May.