Blog: Katy AskewWhat retailers comply with the UK grocery code?

Katy Askew | 23 June 2015

The UK's Grocery Code Adjudicator insisted it is "making a difference" and improving the relationship between retailers and suppliers at its annual conference this week.

Commenting on the findings of a YouGov survey, released to coincide with the conference yesterday (22 June), Adjudicator Christine Tacon said the code was improving the supplier-retailer relationship in a year that has challenged both parties. “We still have some way to go in important areas but this is a clear sign we are on the right track,” she insisted.

Certainly, it would appear complaints are marginally down even though more suppliers would be willing to flag issues. Retail buyers found to "rarely" or "never" comply with the code were also slightly lower across the board. Overall, retailer compliance with the code is up, the watchdog insisted. Progress – albeit by low single-digit percentage points – has apparently been made.

But here is what I found most interesting reading in the report: if I were to ask you what retailers are most compliant with the code, your response would likely feature Waitrose, Marks and Spencer or Sainsbury's - the retailers that make a real song and dance about provenance and quality. While all of these are in the list of the top four "most compliant" retailers, it might come as something of a surprise to note German discounter Aldi tops the rankings. Lidl came in fifth, ahead of Asda, The Co-operative Group, Tesco and Morrisons.

Not only does Aldi rank as the most compliant retailer, over the past 12 months it has also made most progress in stamping out behaviours prohibited by the code.

In its "overall assessment of compliance with the code", YouGov found occasions when Aldi is "never" compliant stood at 0%. Incidents when it "rarely" adheres to the rules fell from 12% to 5% between 2014 and 2015. Aldi adheres to the code "consistently well" and "mostly" in 94% of its interactions with suppliers.

This places Aldi's supplier relationship on a more equitable footing than those of retailers at the high end of the market, where consumers pay a premium for products that are supposedly of a greater quality and where issues like ethical sourcing are brought to the fore. Both Aldi and Lidl rank higher than the mainstream multiples like Asda, Tesco and Morrisons.

The results of the YouGov survey serve to dispel any myth the discounters can charge lower prices because they squeeze their suppliers. On closer examination, it would appear the discounters are among the 'fairest' retailers with which to secure listings. Their low prices come back to ranging, inventory turnover, low overheads and strict cost management.

Overall assessment of compliance with the Code: Source YouGov Survey

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