Notes from the other side of the desk…

Part 7: What next?

I have had the pleasure of being a Retail Food Buyer for two years in the Convenience sector in the UK. As a result of the global financial downturn I noticed a dramatic difference in the size of businesses that were coming to see me; the big boys got bigger, the small got smaller and more niche and the middle got squeezed out. This meant that I had the pleasure of meeting with and, in some cases, working with some very young businesses and I really felt like part of their journey. I must admit some of them did a great job, others…not so much! So I thought I’d pull together a short series of blogs based on my experience and, if you’re a young business wanting to crack mainstream retail, I hope this might be a useful read.

This is the final chapter in my mini-series offering a peek behind the curtain into the world of retail buying. This short insight will offer some advice on how to maintain that listing and develop the business. Getting it onto the shelf is easy for a Buyer to do but making it leap off the shelves isn’t so easy.

It’s really easy to get overexcited when the Buyer finally says ‘yes’ and think that’s the job done. It isn’t. In reality agreeing to a listing is relatively easy for a Buyer to do but if that’s all they do your product will just be another area for dust to gather in warehouses and stores. So to be successful and professional you need to have a plan and a strategy to pull that stock through the supply chain to create re-orders and really make the Buyer look good! I’ve compiled some simple tips that will help a artisanal manufacturer devise their pull strategy to maintain that listing and develop the business beyond a simple listing…

In it for the long run: you need to show at least a 12-month plan of how you’re going to support your product and your newest stockist with a clear promotional strategy focussing on key trigger periods.

All lined up: you should have an aligned sales plan that is supported with media, social media and events that you might be doing. If you’re going to be at a key food festival sampling near one of your new stores then tie it in.

Tell people about it: half the battle with getting your product off the shelves is about communication. Tell as many people about your new product as you can; that means the internal team at your customer’s offices and at a store level. Sampling campaigns are really effective. It also shows that you’re proud of what you do and not afraid to face the taste test.

It’s vitally important that you know exactly how your product is going to sell in terms of store numbers, pricing, promotions and communication tools. It will demonstrate to your Buyer that you’ve really understood their business and know what it takes to make a difference to their KPIs.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed my mini-series. It’s just my perspective from how I approached meetings and listings with smaller suppliers. I used to really enjoy working with up and coming manufacturers, getting to know their stories and buzzing off their enthusiasm for what they do; it made a welcome change from the robotic regurgitations that I was subjected to from a lot of large suppliers.

The series has walked you through:

  • How to get a meeting
  • How to prepare
  • Understanding a Buyer’s motives
  • Structuring a Meeting
  • How to take control
  • How to always be relevant
  • How to maintain and develop the business

It has only been a whistle-stop tour as I can write and talk for hours on this subject. My final piece of advice to anyone wanting to crack mainstream retail with their brilliant new product is: go for it, what’s the worst that can happen?

Northern Munkee.