>>Pay suppliers a fair price for quality and innovation


Asda bosses have a great track record of standing up at the IGD annual convention and making speeches that literally make your jaw drop. And new boy Andy Bond kept that proud tradition going this week with some pointed observations about the support (or lack of it) he thinks Asda is getting from suppliers.
We cover that bit of his speech in some depth on page 4. But Bond also talked a lot about the poor state of innovation in the industry, and I think the views he expressed are worth exploring.
In short, Bond slammed retailers and suppliers for making the supermarket experience so boring and ‘samey’ that it was turning off consumers.
Dressed head to toe in George casual clothing, he said the grey suits had ruined the industry by creating too much inertia and bureaucracy that stifled innovation. And, echoing what I was saying in this column last week, he said too much of the NPD in today’s market was about me-too products and brand extensions that gave us more of the same, not something genuinely new. Fair enough; I agree with the sentiment.
But talking to suppliers at the IGD shindig, it is clear most of them think that retailers such as Asda are getting what they deserve. New suppliers will tell you how impossible it is to get their innovative products on shelves, for instance, while more established players point out that price-led retailers have trashed margins to such an extent that there is actually no money left to invest in new ideas, radical ways of working or risk-taking.
During his presentation, Bond talked a lot about how the fashion industry had moved to a fast-track agenda, where new products were pumped through the system in a matter of weeks, rather than the months it took to get a grocery product on shelves. Now, I am no fashion guru, but I have to say that if the result of all this fast-tracking is the sort of stuff that Bond was wearing on stage this week, which frankly looked cheap and nasty, then I am not sure I want to see the same thinking applied to food.
I don’t think a lack of speed to market is necessarily what’s wrong with the grocery sector. Rather, I think our problem is that too many retailers don’t create a culture that empowers buyers to take risks and - above all - they’re not prepared to pay suppliers a fair price for delivering quality and innovation.
NPD is great, but it costs