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Co-operation anyone?

Suppliers and retailers work together, but not very well in Canada right now

Increasing numbers of the world’s top grocery industry CEOs are gravitating to the year-old European-based association called the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF). That’s because it provides the ideal venue to discuss at the highest level, the common issues facing suppliers and retailers worldwide. Any time you have top executives of suppliers and retailers talking together, you open the possibility of finding solutions to issues.

Bill McEwan, president of Sobeys Inc., who also sits on the board of the new association, says: “Big issues impacting our global industry get addressed. Things are going to get done, whether related to supply chain, sustainability, safety and health or other emerging trends. It is really exciting to be part of an organization that has both the ‘weight’ and commitment to advance the industry agenda.”

Nancy Croitoru, president of Food and Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), is co-chair of the liaison group of the CGF.
The role of the liaison group is to implement strategies that have been agreed upon by the larger body where appropriate, and to provide input based on the concerns of leading global grocery industry executives.

One of the strategies the liaison group deals with is the development of a North American Trading Partner Alliance–sort of a new version of Efficient Consumer Response (ECR). When ECR was at its peak in Canada 15 years ago, manufacturers and retailers worked together to concentrate their efforts on serving customers better. Without ECR, there is no platform for suppliers and retailers to come together to find solutions to our biggest issues. One of CGF’s mandates is to develop a new Trading Partner Alliance in Canada and the U.S. that could persuade manufacturers and retailers to work together again.

“I would really encourage leadership in our industry in Canada to look at what is being done by the Consumer Goods Forum and explore ways to engage,” says McEwan.

Steve van der Leest, president of Overwaitea Food Group, is a member of CGF and says: “It’s extra important to have a global view of food retailing if you operate in Canada, as the wide variety of backgrounds make for a diverse and experienced customer mix.”

Local issues remain the responsibility of regional associations like FCPC, CFIG and CCGD in Canada, which are CGF members.

One unfortunate aspect of the Canadian scene today is the fact that our big retailers do not appear willing to talk with one another, let alone sit together with manufacturers. CCGD, which represents larger distributors, has been threatened with withdrawal by Loblaw, and Loblaw
has joined the Retail Council of Canada. The CCGD board, once filled with CEOs, is now populated by lower-ranking personnel. It cannot be easy for CCGD to represent such a diverse group.

We must return to a more co-operative state. Perhaps McEwan says it best about CGF: “The fact that both manufacturers and retailers are at the same table [each strategic pillar is co-chaired by a manufacturer and a retailer CEO] to work on the common issues impacting our industry is obviously a good thing and I would strongly suggest [it] can only help strengthen relationships between the two.”

Amen to the Consumer Goods Forum. Now let’s bring that same attitude back to Canada.

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