'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?
4 December 2013 | 11:46 |