GSCOP and the Covid-19 crisis

23rd April 2020

I have great admiration for the dedication and sheer hard work displayed by all shop workers and central office teams as we continue to navigate our way through the supply chain challenges that Covid19 has presented us with.

Behind the scenes, herculean efforts by all those involved – literally getting food from the field to the shelf – have ensured that we all have had an offering of some kind on our tables.

Stronger together

Now, the supermarket shelves are beginning to show normal levels of fill and displays are looking like they did before the lockdown and panic buying surge – even for those initially stockpiled products like loo roll, pasta, tinned tomatoes, eggs, rice and flour. During the last few weeks, Supermarket buyers have had to make swift and significant changes to their product ranges – they have done so probably out of necessity as some components and ingredients go short whilst others remain available. Additionally, we’ve seen ranges reduced in breadth enabling larger production runs which are better for factory efficiency and faster order turnaround.

We’ve seen amazing collaboration between retailers and suppliers and amongst usually competing suppliers – I’d like to name them all, but the list is exhaustive and continues to grow by the day – hats off to you all!

There has been huge collaboration, lots of communication, many long hours by workers in key areas and inevitably a huge degree of last-minute change. The Grocery Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) has remained in place and in its original guise throughout the current crisis – despite senior industry figures requesting to the Grocery Code Adjudicator (GCA) a relaxation or suspension of certain elements of it – particularly in relation to de-lists.

Framework, not a barrier

Christine Tacon has remained unbending in her views and I think rightly so. Despite the pressure upon Tacon to amend the code, she has urged supermarket CEOs to use the flexibility within the code, rather than seek for elements of it to be suspended. This is a key and important message – undoubtedly, normal de-listing timeframes may have been shortened – but the overarching principle of fair dealing still prevails which encourages active two-way dialogue, collaboration and written confirmation of any changes to supply agreements.

Tacon has also reassured suppliers that complaints about delists during the current period would be investigated, once the situation is over. However, and I think this is key – in Tacon’s words: “Over these initial few weeks, for the vast majority of suppliers, their interests have been aligned with those of retailers to get the groceries that consumers want onto the shelves.”

The stories in the papers, LinkedIn and on most social media sites corroborate that the last few weeks has seen a huge number of amazing supplier / retailer collaborations – some of which will last and some of which are short-term fixes to get food to our homes quickly and efficiently.

4C Associates run GCA approved GSCOP training courses, offering full or refresher training facilitated by senior retailers using real life examples and scenarios bringing the code too life. If you’d like to learn more about GSCOP or discuss any examples where you feel that the Code may have been breached, please contact our GSCOP expert – Simon Latham.

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