Essential reading for retailers and suppliers in the home improvement market
'With mixed feelings' are probably the best words to describe the way suppliers used to anticipate crucial meetings with a multiple buyer. Such encounters were always bracing, as enthusiasm for new products blended with tough negotiation and frank exchanges of views. A basic given, however, was both parties acknowledging a mutual interest in getting an outcome that was right for the retailer, right for the supplier and, above all, right for the consumer - long and short term.

Speaking as a supplier who has played this game for many years, I am thinking something's gone badly wrong. For, while I'm used to the pressure inherent in fewer DIY multiple brands to trade with, and I'm used to a degree of power play or even disdain from certain characters on the buying side, and I'm used to the frustration of building relationships of trust only for all the buying personnel to change as a result of the latest management crisis... What I am NOT used to is the new low we seem to have reached in the levels of knowledge and application displayed by the average buyer.

Is there anyone out there who agrees that, not only are many buyers too young and too inexperienced to know nearly enough about the DIY shopping journey, they are also flagrantly ignorant about the technical issues that affect most of the products they are charged with selecting?

Now I could just about acknowledge this as the downside of today's graduate training scheme route into the buying department and get on with it, but what I cannot forgive is that product ignorance is compounded by a total lack of interest. Not only do they not know; they do not want to know and see technical knowledge as irrelevant to a negotiation process which makes the buying-in price the sole arbiter.

Maybe it doesn't matter if good suppliers go to the wall, as long as buyers can crow they have made a quick buck, but the quality and fitness for purpose of the product presented to the unsuspecting consumer jolly well should matter to them, and lack of interest is putting that in danger.

Take security products. There is a world of performance difference even between a padlock bought in at £3 and one bought in at £5, and a buyer's refusal to engage with that fact is quite likely to end up in a genuine human cost, when a shed door is forced and a lawnmower stolen. And all over a pretty minimal cost difference in a category that is not price sensitive anyway!

Once upon a time, a good, supportive supplier worked with a potentially tough, but fully clued-up buyer to get a good mutual result. And consumers were happy with DIY stores. Nowadays I'm not sure how much longer good suppliers can be bothered to support vacant, uninterested buyers. Perhaps we'd be better looking at other ways to make our consumers happy! Ecommerce anybody?
View User Profile for An industry insider Shooting from the Hip is written by a number of different people in the DIY, hardware and garden market. They share their day-to-day experiences and, writing anonymously, are able to air any frustrations regardless of commercial considersations.
Posted by An industry insider An industry insider | 4 December 2013 | 11:46 | More from: Shooting from the Hip


Published prior to March 2014
By Anonymous
As an experienced buyer for more than 24 years across vast sectors of the industry from DIY , housewares to gardening it is about the quality of the product first. I will not buy a product for our stores unless we have tested it or tasted it in the case of food. And then of course these days the next battle is competing with the internet and in alot of cases these days actually having to compete against the supplier !!!
Published prior to March 2014
By Experienced Buyer
I think that all of the above points highlights that some suppliers and buyers are not cultivating the right relationships and if both sides do not take responsiablity for their part then we are all doomed! The reality of today's market is that customers want a deal; thats why the likes of B&M, Wilkos etc seen growth and taken share from others.It is therfore only logical that other retailers and their suppliers recognize this demand for lower priced items and service it. Some suppliers, not all (I feel its really important not to make sweeping statements about people) take this as them being squeezed on cost and go into battle mode, others however see the oppurtunity not only to deliver this value proposition but also to grow their brand and other ranges by delivering an in store proposition that encourages the customers to trade up - these unsuprisingly are the accounts that thrive. On a seperate note there is clearly an age agenda on here; age and experience are not mutually exclusive and if you get caught up in that way of thinking you will never break down barriers and form the collabarative relationships that are needed in order to grow your business in a way that is mutually beneficial to all parties - the fact that 'the old sod' and 'grumpy old man' reinforced the prior view just serves to discredit any valuable, well balanced point you attempted to make and reminds] me of an old school boys club of suppliers that thought business was best done over a drink rather than based on sound commercial resaoning - thankfully there arent that many left but its seems those that are have finally learnt how to switch their computors and rant on what should be a proffesional forum - shame on me for being dragged into this riduiculous daebate, shame on you for starting it!
Published prior to March 2014
By Grumpy old man
I totally agree with the main article, most buyers are more concerned about about margin and are no longer "product" people but spreadsheet people. they could have a store full of useless, poorly packaged, use once and throw away items but as long they make a healthy for the business they don't care.
Published prior to March 2014
By Another 'industry insider'
I think sweeping statements included in this article can be very damaging and not a very accurate view of the modern day. It sounds like there may be bitterness from an 'ageist' supplier that has maybe been challenged more than they like from a fresh eyed buyer. Most buyers I know myself care most about the customer, and challenge on quality alongside price to get the best result for the customer at the end of the day. With a good collaborative relationship both the supplier, retailer and ultimately customer gain the positive outcome that they desire
Published prior to March 2014
By The Old Sod
Cannot disagree with any of these comments, price and margin for the retailer are the primary things the average retail buyer is interested in, not only in the DIY field its getting the same with the trade sector, major catalogue retailers are not interested in quality just how far they can take the branded product down and how low they can buy their own label products from the FAR EAST regardless of quality!!!
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