Private Brand Supplier Engagement; the Impact of Brexit?

It is fair to say that back in 2019, Brexit dominated the news. The same is said for 2018. It is hard to believe but we probably all wish it had been in 2020 too. Because that means we wouldn’t have been in the grip of a global pandemic, but clearly Covid-19 has (rightly) taken the news headlines. 

But Brexit has not gone away, and whilst rules continue to be uncertain and negotiations go on, there is the need for retailers to assess risk, manage change and engage suppliers in the inevitable change process. The rules of supplier engagement are still there; the need for communication, transparency and support. Indeed, given the uncertainty around Brexit, the arguable need for communication and support is paramount. 

One element of S4RB Affinity is the product survey tool, which allows retailers to rapidly collect product level information from suppliers to augment information already stored within Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)compliance or other retail systems. Examples of this are where retailers wish to gather additional sustainability information suh as the removal of mica, talc, microbeads etc. or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting such as for packaging, plastics or palm oil (RSPO). Learn how, using Affinity, we helped Co-op ensure RSPO compliance within their own brand ranges. Achieving 100% of responses from 350 suppliers about thousands of products in just three weeks. 

With Brexit in mind, the Affinity tool also allows retailers to manage risk and change (either using their own instance of Affinity, or as a service from S4RB). For example, when the Food Information Regulations (FIR) legislation changed to include allergen labelling in 2016, Waitrose used the S4RB services and the Affinity tool to ensure not only their own brands were compliant, but also to support the hundreds of local and artisan suppliers that supplied Waitrose were also compliant. Keeping all products on shelf.  

There is a potential need to do the same for Brexit, in terms of risk assessment and engaging suppliers. For example, to assess where labour shortages (due to new working rules) could impact supply, or where new tariffs are likely to impact costs. The latter will likely be more applicable for non-food products, but the whole point is the need to do this at a product level, no assumptions. To engage suppliers in this way will not only give increased forward visibility, but the very act of the assessment will ensure it is front of mind for suppliers. The right questions are being asked. Forewarned is forearmed. 

This is an approach we’ve seen successfully employed from FIR legislation in the UK to new Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) legislation in the USA, where there are real benefits to successful supplier engagement. 

The rules remain in negotiation. The full impact of Brexit remains unknown. But there will be an impact.  

If you want to know how supplier engagement can help your retail team minimise that impact for you and your customers, you can learn more about Affinity here. 

James Butcher

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