BrainTrust Query: Should Vendors Ditch ‘Can-Do’ Attitudes with Retailers?
Spieckerman, President, Newmarketbuilders
Edited offerings, limited distribution, getting
behind one or two brands… I remember when narrowing down options was
a way to a retailer’s heart… and when the phrase “You know what’s best” actually
came from the retailer side of the table fairly often. Of course, that
was back when vendors were a vital resource to retailers!
Over the last decade, retail vendors have
expanded their product and brand portfolios, points of distribution, door
counts, price point options, and sourcing selection. Vendors have become
so conditioned to “can-do” that giving direction feels alien and downright
risky. While this defensive, order-taking mindset has served vendors well
over the past decade (and certainly through the recession), here’s four
reasons why we’re advising our clients to close down the smorgasbord and
return to more prescriptive tactics.
1. Option Overload: Just
when the moving parts of retail seemed to be getting manageable… and
measureable, along came digital media and social networking; both of which
are multi-faceted worlds of their own. No retailer claims to have this
all figured out, yet all of them are jumping in regardless. You can’t afford
to play wait-and-see or to be all over the place. Now is the time to collaborate
with retailers on emerging media and to decide where you will and won’t
2. High Turnover: Buyers
and other decision-makers have been transitioning out of positions at faster
and faster rates as retailers build bench strength and groom future leaders.
The swinging door has only sped up as retailers eliminate and consolidate
positions at HQ. That means that vendors and service providers that have
expertise, category knowledge and insight have a real advantage… but
only if they step up and use it!
3. The Search for Certainty: What
is more destabilizing than uncertainty? More uncertainty! Retailers have
never favored confused, overwhelmed or tentative vendors and in a difficult
retail environment, all of those traits are magnified. It’s time to have
a point of view and to instill confidence in your organization and in your
retail partners. No one is going to march boldly ahead with a mouseburger!
4. The Right Brain of Retail: Retailers
are shutting down silos and they aren’t relying on quantifiable metrics
exclusively; that goes for how they choose vendors and brands as well.
Retailers want to see coordinated effort, collaboration and a value around
non-quantifiable touch points on the vendor side. We call this shift the “right
brain of retail” and
vendors will need to evolve into this mindset with their retail partners,
not behind, if they want to have a seat at the table. This is particularly
true as those trashcan fires start to die down and consumer confidence
moves north. Consumers are getting ready to spend and retailers will be
looking for bold ideas in short order.
It’s time to grow a voice, edit the menu,
crank up the innovation, and get out your prescription pad. Options
aren’t answers anymore… and “rationalization” isn’t always rational.
Questions: Is it time for vendors to become more assertive and less
open-ended in their dealings with retailers? Do you agree that the
opportunity as well as the necessity is there? What do you think
of the reasons justifying vendors being more prescriptive in retail
partnerships cited in the article?