Sainsbury’s Strategy Update Image

Sainsbury’s wants to charge suppliers up to £400,000 to access forecast data they had previously received from the supermarket for free.

Store level forecast data has long been freely shared with suppliers via Sainsbury’s Horizon system, but access will now require a ‘Silver Tier’ subscription – costing thousands, depending on the size of the supplier – as the supermarket moves to a new data platform.

The charges have been met with widespread resistance from suppliers, which has led to a delay in the planned decommissioning of Horizon.

“We fall into the camp of suppliers that refuse to pay,” one major supplier told The Grocer. “If they insist then we will just do without the data.

“A strange way to try and make money. They should stick to putting things on shelf and selling them,” the household brand added.

Sainsbury’s Horizon replacement – SupplyHub – has been implemented by US business Circana. Circana is the new name of market data firms IRI and NPD, which merged in 2022.

Within SupplyHub, access to data has been split into three tiers: ‘Free to Air’, Bronze and Silver. The free tier – the SupplyHub claims – replaces “existing operational data systems”. The top, Silver tier gives access to “the most complete analytics” to allow suppliers “to pinpoint opportunities for the most advanced decision making” based on “store level forecasts for demand and supply chains”. Suppliers said this store level data had previously been free.

“The deeper insights – I think people are prepared to pay for. But they’ve chucked into the top tier data they get for free that is crucial for the commercial teams,” said Ged Futter, founder of supermarket supplier consultancy The Retail Mind.

“Forecasting data is now going to be costing suppliers a huge amount of money. All of a sudden it comes to this being implemented and it kicks off big time. Suppliers are saying ‘I’m not paying’.”

In an online summit with suppliers earlier this week, Sainsbury’s said it had “extended the decommissioning window” for Horizon. The switchover from Horizon to Circana had been due to take place last week.

“We have moved to a new model,” Sainsbury’s director of commercial operations Jon Bye told the supplier audience. “There’s a free layer, there’s a charged for layer that provides a lot more depth in terms of what you can access. So, look, we really hear the feedback on that. We believe there’s sensible rationale for differentiating between what we share and something that’s far more detailed on a cost basis, but we really hear the feedback around the experience of that. So we will look at that.”

As well as complaints over the new charges, suppliers are also concerned that data from the Circana-run system is difficult to share within their businesses, as it can’t be readily transferred to SAP or Excel.

“It’s not normal behaviour from Sainsbury’s – they’ve usually been pretty collaborative with suppliers,” Futter said.

“We know all the retailers want to sell their data,” he added. “But how they’ve gone about it in this process – I think they’ve got it wrong. It’s a mess-up on their part.”

Sainsbury’s declined to comment on the data charges, saying only that: “Due to the high volume of sign-ups from our suppliers [to SupplyHub], we have extended access to the legacy platform to enable a smooth transition.”