Wednesday 10 December 2014

UK accounting watchdog warns retailers after Tesco scandal

Britain's Financial Reporting Council (FRC), which polices accountants and is examining how Tesco's error came about, said on Monday that the boards of all retailers and suppliers should provide investors with sufficient information on their accounting policies, especially Commercial Income (i.e. Trade investment).

This is particularly important for NAMs as the watchdog said it would focus on this area when it comes to reviewing audits for 2014 that will be published in 2015.

The FRC said there was no single accounting standard for such disclosures and there is an "absence of well-known industry norms", meaning that auditors have to resort to judgement in most cases.

Given the 20+ ‘buckets’ that suppliers use for trade funding, it might be useful if NAMs simplified and segregated their funding.

‘Supply and Demand’ rewards could provide a useful basis for clarification.  In other words, classifying elements of commercial income as either facilitating supply economies, or optimising consumer demand, might help, but still leaves complexity....

Supply rewards could include:
- Central assortment & listing
- Timely and committed forecasts
- Central credit, settlement terms, and payment
- Returns/write-offs
- Deductions

Demand rewards could include:
- Listings
- 'Appropriate' range/assortment
- Category compliance: shelf space & level, fair-share facings
- Promotional compliance, price support, POS compliance, additional placements/displays
- Minimalising post-audit recoveries
- Sales achievement

It is likely that the SFO-Tesco outcome will result in new auditing procedures aimed at transparency, defensibility and like-with-like 'comparability' in dealing with Commercial Income in retail accounts.

Meanwhile, suppliers can anticipate the changes and possibly avoid major retrospective overhauling of their trade funding process, by taking action to clarify their trade funding process now, while others await the inevitable… 

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