The fact the Groceries Code Adjudicator has one of the busiest diaries in the industry speaks volumes about the impact of the cost of living crisis on the relationship between retailers and suppliers.

Today, The Grocer revealed supermarkets and suppliers are locked in a series of disputes over negotiations on passing on inflation, which has given rise to a raft of short-notice delistings across a range of sectors.

Sadly, it is all too apparent that the co-operation between retailers and suppliers that somehow managed to keep the supply chain operational during the pandemic has not survived the strain of this latest “once in a lifetime” crisis in the same way.

Supermarkets are desperate to keep price rises down as they face the threat of shoppers deserting to the discounters now lockdown is over. So they have been doing all they can to resist what Adjudicator Mark White himself describes as an “avalanche” of cost price increase requests.

The fact White has intervened, with a number of disputes believed to be heading to arbitration (if they are not already there), suggests some have overstepped the mark. 

That’s big news in itself. Going to arbitration is hardly something suppliers take lightly given the obvious fear of repercussions. Indeed, White’s predecessor Christine Tacon only carried out eight arbitrations in her seven years at the helm.

Of course, it remains to be seen just how much power the Adjudicator will have considering GSCOP’s limitations when it comes to tackling commercial pricing decisions.

But while nothing has reached full investigation stage yet, retailers face not only a potential financial threat from the GCA but also reputational damage and potential long-term harm to supplier relationships. Which is what makes this year’s annual YouGov league table so alarming.

If this were the Premier League it would be compulsive viewing, with a number of retailers seeing their behaviour in the eyes of the supply chain massively on the wane.

Sainsbury’s, which last year topped the table, is now down to fifth, below B&M Stores. Lidl, which was seventh last year, has dropped to the bottom of the pile, while Morrisons is just one place above, with its lowest score since 2015.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s addition as the 14th on the list of retailers designated under GSCOP came too late for it to be recorded in the views of the 2,500 suppliers who responded to the survey. But with the e-commerce giant also having been at the centre of controversy over last-minute delistings, that does not mean it will have escaped the Adjudicator’s attention.

Still, it would be would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall in the supermarket c-suites today to see how much attention they are actually paying to the table. Perhaps it’s still sitting in the inbox, while they wonder just what on earth to do with their profit margins and the latest figures on inflation.