Christine Tacon

The Times has reported on the travails and troubles of the Groceries Code Adjudicator after Whitehall emails showed the supermarket regulator was on the “brink of crisis” as a result of officials at the business department’s procurement division blocking access to vital resources. The emails shed light on how the body was thrown into an “impossible situation” and “critical” work was delayed because it was unable to use basic services to get the agency off the ground.

The latest report on the UK high street gets a lot of mileage in this morning’s papers, with findings that more shops closed in 2014 than opened. PwC’s survey showed net closures almost trebled to 987 despite economic recovery, with the biggest casualties being mobile phone retailers, mostly the result of the collapse of Phones 4U in September. Only charity shops, bookmakers and the ubiquitous pound stores managed to attract shoppers in sufficient number to fill the gaps. And the number of units left empty last year almost tripled, as 5,839 shops were shuttered and 4,852 were opened. PwC warned that the high street was “running out of time”. (The Guardian) (The Financial Times £) (The Times £)

There isn’t a single high street chain which has committed to the living wage, according to The Independent. The paper said retailers were “conspicuous by their absence” on a list of 1,200 accredited UK-wide living-wage employers paying the independently set hourly rate of £7.85, or £9.15 in London. It added that even chains such as John Lewis and the Co-operative were not signed up. “Not a single high street retailer has accredited as a Living Wage employer, despite posting huge profits, whilst we, the taxpayers, help top up the wages of their low-paid staff through in-work tax credits,” said Neil Jameson, director of Citizens UK, the charity that launched the living wage campaign and set up the Living Wage Foundation. “It’s a perverse situation when a supermarket worker, despite having a staff discount, can’t afford to shop in the store they work in because of poverty pay, and a full-time member of staff relies on benefits to make ends meet.”

Drinks giant Diageo has backed down on its plan to lengthen payment terms to its suppliers following pressure from the government and the Forum of Private Business (FPB). The Guinness, Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker maker has promised to settle its bills withing 60 days for all UK SMEs, instead of a proposed 90. It comes just weeks after the government strengthened the voluntary Prompt Payment Code in an effort to crack down on extended payment terms which are hurting small suppliers. (The Financial Times £) (The Times £)

Ahead of this week’s annual results for Sainbury’s, The Times publishes a comment piece citing worries that the company could be heading for the top of the “City’s supermarket sick list”. Since the beginning of the year, Sainsbury’s shares have performed worse than Tesco and Morrisons, with short-sellers piling in as the retailer loses customers to its rivals. “As a newly energised Tesco limbers up for a revival under a freshly minted management team, competition in the food industry’s middle ground is about to get tougher still,” the paper said. “If Mr Coupe’s numbers fall short, Sainsbury’s could find itself shooting to the top of the City’s lengthy supermarket sick list.”