Cat Kelly
14 March '24

6 minute read

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CP’s recent Retail Forum was a little different from previous events. It still brought together a mix of finance professionals from some of the UK’s biggest retailers. Giving them an opportunity to discuss topical issues affecting them. But this time there were external guest speakers keen to engage with the group.

As always, the Retail Forum was hosted Cat Kelly Cooper Parry’s Head of Retail and recent ex-Chair of the ICAEW Retail Advisory Group. Joined from Halfords by Jenni Smith, Head of Group Financial Reporting & Control and Prithy Patel Group Financial Accountant.

Representatives from the Financial Reporting Council (FRC)’s Corporate Reporting Review team came along to talk to the Forum attendees. They’re undertaking some focused thematic work on the retail sector and were particularly interested to hear about the accounting issues facing retailers. More about that below.

Chris Jackson from BDO’s Risk Advisory Services team, who works on projects for large retailers, also attended. He came along to give an insight into their approach and how BDO advise on best practice for UK corporate governance and internal controls for their clients.

As always, the focus of the Forum is all about providing finance leads an opportunity to get together for an informal collaborative roundtable event. Full of content and useful insight. Round the table and over a tasty lunch where useful connections were made and networking was lively.


The FRC attendees were very much in listening mode. Keen to identify and understand problem areas with corporate reporting from a retail perspective. Retail has been identified as a key sector that the FRC is keen to hear from given the stresses upon it post Covid. They want to ensure that any recommendations coming out of the review are sensible and practical. Resulting in a best practice approach.

Areas they were keen to get feedback on included:

  • Cash Generating Units (CGU) and impairment related issues – particularly focusing on CGU boundaries for individual stores, brands and online sales. Multi-channel retailers have the challenge of allocating impairments in a consistent and accurate way.
  • Alternative Performance Measures (APMs) – because of the lack of clear guidance judgement calls are being made by auditors. Attendees were firmly of the view that clearer guidance would be welcomed to provide a standardised approach.
  • Leasing – how leases interact with impairment and APMs and the ongoing use of ‘pre-IFRS 16’ measures. A particular issue with the banks who are still using them for covenants and leases. The financial sector needs to be brought up to date.
  • Supplier Income – payment from suppliers was a big issue several years ago, not so much now. There are still questions around when disclosures should be made. Particularly as commercial negotiations can be competitor sensitive. Judgement is needed around the presentation of supplier income rather than the process or contract detail. The current guidance feels out of date. For example, it doesn’t recognise the significance of ecommerce channels.


Chris Jackson from BDO then gave an overview of the UK Corporate Governance Code which was updated and published by the FRC in January 2024. The approach taken in the guidance is very much ‘comply or explain’ rather than giving black and white direction as is the case of the US Sox regulations. Pros and cons can be found with both approaches. Companies having to report in both the UK and the US have the challenge of meeting both requirements.

The key points from the updates to the code include:

  • Smarter regulation – targeted and controlled,
  • Focus on internal controls,
  • Principles based,
  • Comply or explain,
  • In place from 1 January 2025 for application and from 1 January 2026 for controls,
  • Associated guidance now published.

Ultimately the code isn’t forcing companies to ‘control’ everything. What is its doing is putting the emphasis on the Board’s role in monitoring the company’s risk management and internal control framework which does need to be done at least annually.

Chris then helpfully took attendees through a suggested approach to the Internal Controls Implementation Journey. Setting out how organisations are implementing (or enhancing) internal controls over financial reporting.

The Q&A after his presentation proved really useful for attendees who explored areas of concern specific to their circumstances. Encompassing everything from control maturity and culture through to who owns the responsibility for implementing, maintaining and assurance over the internal controls framework. The thorny issue of where control sits in an organisation is further complicated when considering subjects as ESG reporting.


The final session of the morning was devoted to the usual roundtable format. Attendees were generous about sharing information. Uncovering some of the hurdles facing them. We’re not giving away all their strategies and practical tips to overcome them. After all that’s one of the perks of being in the room.

However, it’s safe to say the impact of the macro-economic climate in an election year is causing concern. As is the variation in the steer being given by different auditors as practice in relation to FRC guidance evolves.


Chatham House rules were firmly in place for the Forum, so we haven’t broken any confidences. But hopefully this taster into the insights and reflections shared gives you a feel for the wide range of topics covered.

We’ll be hosting the Retail Forum again along with other retail focussed events. Keep an eye on our events page for details once they’re finalised. The Retail Forum is a great event for finance leads from retail businesses to mingle within your peer group. If you’d like to tap into this treasure trove of insight and lively discussion, drop us an email through the link below so we can add you to our potential invite list. We do limit places to help facilitate conversation.

Or if any of the above has sparked some thoughts you’d like to discuss do get in touch.