Welcome to our retail special issue.
For those not in this sector, you may be thinking: ‘what’s this got to do with me?’
A number of things. First, our research shows your perception is that the damaging headlines about poor treatment of suppliers reflects badly on the whole profession. Eighty-eight per cent of the 1,002 purchasers who responded to our retail survey said the ‘bullying’ of suppliers by some was giving procurement a bad name.
One person trying to tackle this is UK supermarket watchdog Christine Tacon. As groceries code adjudicator she enforces the Groceries Supply Code of Practice; can ‘name and shame’ rule-breakers; and will shortly have the power to fine those who fail to comply. SM spoke to her as she launched her first investigation, with Tesco potentially in breach of the code.
Second, retail should interest us all as consumers. In what conditions were your clothes made? If workers aren’t happy with their wages are they free to say so without fear? What did you eat for dinner last night? Where did it come from and was it really what it claimed to be? We speak to professor Chris Elliott to find out what’s changed since burgers adulterated with horse meat were found in shops two years ago.
We also examine the changes made since the worst disaster to hit the garment industry: The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory that killed more than 1,110 people and injured many more.
A fashion buyer tells us what keeps her awake at night and the former CPO of Sainsbury’s warns that retail’s fast pace must not lead to shortcuts that could spell disaster.
But it’s not all bad. The sector gets attention because we all have a stake in it. The spotlight may be uncomfortable but it results in progress and even pioneering work. We review some of its strengths and one professional tells us why he loves his job.
It’s been fascinating to explore this sector a little more, we hope you agree.