Tesco, the UK’s biggest retailer, is cancelling its membership of industry trade association the BRC.

The grocery giant’s decision could be a blow not just to the BRC but to retail generally, as it seeks to make its voice heard in the corridors of power amid unprecedented change which is convulsing the industry.

The grocer attributed its decision to a changed business model following its merger with Booker, but said it would continue to cooperate with relevant organisations on issues of common interest.

The BRC said Tesco’s decision was disappointing but that it would be business as usual for the organisation in its efforts to influence policymakers on behalf of the retail industry. Other leading retailers have affirmed their continued membership.

‘Lead on debates’

A Tesco spokesperson told Retail Week: “After careful consideration, we have informed the BRC of our decision to withdraw from membership.

“Tesco is now embarking on a new chapter following our merger with Booker, creating the UK’s leading food business.

“As we start operating as both a retailer and wholesaler, we are looking at a new set of issues and this decision will help us to lead on those debates that are important to our customers, colleagues and supply partners.

“We will continue to work in partnership with colleagues across the food industry on the key issues facing the sector.”

A BRC spokesperson said: “The retail industry is changing rapidly and dramatically and so we are focused more than ever on how we make a positive difference by shaping a policy environment that enables retail businesses to thrive in the future, and benefits consumers.

“We continue to make the case for fundamental reform of business rates; face into the debate on plastics and waste; argue for a Brexit deal that Works for consumers; push for an apprenticeship system that delivers better jobs in retail; and drive positive change through our Better Retail Better World sustainability initiative, now which has over 25 major companies involved.

“To lose any member of the BRC is disappointing. However, over 95% of our members renew each year and over the past few months we have welcomed many new companies into membership, so we are confident we do a good job on behalf of the industry.”

John Lewis remains ‘committed’

Former BRC chairman Sir Ian Cheshire regretted Tesco’s decision. He said: ”It’s their call, but it’s very disappointing that the largest retailer is not showing leadership of the industry and not supporting the BRC as it addresses the issues that are bringing such change.”

A John Lewis Partnership spokesman said it would remain a member, and that the BRC was doing a good job on behalf of the retail industry.

He said: “The John Lewis Partnership is a fully committed member of the BRC. In these times of change, it is important to have a strong industry voice on some of the critical issues such as skills, Brexit, the environment and the sector’s contribution to the economy and society.”