Sainsbury suppliers have been told the multiple is committed to continue improving and further developing relationships with them. The 230 key people gathered at its annual suppliers conference were promised they would see a profitable return on any investment in time, innovation and resource they made at Sainsbury. This time last year the chain said improving supplier relations and building contacts was a priority. Assistant managing director Stuart Mitchell said good progress had been made. "You say we are as good as Tesco in terms of our professional performance and miles ahead of the rest. But that's it." A poll of 500 suppliers carried out by a third party found 75% of them felt relationships with the chain had improved or significantly improved in the past 12 months. "That's something we are very proud of," said Mitchell. He said Sainsbury wanted to build on that achievement by working "faster, simpler and together" with suppliers. A key priority would be working together to drive costs out of the supply chain. Better relationships will be vital in the coming months if recession bites and the price war hots up. Mitchell said: "We are not going to walk away from any battle on price. "We will not let competitors walk all over us." He said the good news for suppliers was that Sainsbury would compete by offering a combination of strong promotions and permanent price reductions to ensure, in the words of its ad campaign, Life Tastes Better For Less'. "There are more tools to play with. More levers to pull. Let's look at doing deals together. Let's get back to trading actively," said Mitchell. He said Sainsbury offered a credible alternative to those implementing "boring" EDLP and EDLP plus strategies. And he added: "We are an intrinsically different high volume operator with a distinct balance between quality and value and we think we can give you a competitive return." {{NEWS }}