The Grocer this week published a ‘second opinion’ piece from David Sables, titled Young buyers lack empathy, which brought up a number of issues facing those working in Retail.

For the full article, please click on the link to The Grocer above. However, the main points raised by David are valid and relate to retailers bringing in buyers with limited experience, no product knowledge and a lack of engagement from more senior retail managers.

“On top of this, products are becoming trading numbers and brands are becoming barcodes. Systems and process manipulation is not ready to replace product empathy in buying.” David Sables

Fortunately in the Global Travel Retail (GTR) channel, this is not yet as predominant as in UK retail terms. That said, I have seen these traits starting to appear in some global customers operating in the Duty Free arena. This is especially the case when it comes to new suppliers and the difficulty in getting meetings and engagement to allow you to convey the brand and opportunity at hand. I am just thankful that there are many more buyers in GTR with the right approach, an open mind and the willingness to develop relationships, regardless of the size of supplier. This is how we managed to bring Loch Lomond Group originally into UK airports…

The ‘second opinion’ piece from David Sables, who is the CEO of Sentinel Management Consultants, got me thinking. It also brought back some personal memories from previous roles, as I recall having to manage a new buyer who had been given his opportunity on a temporary basis with a multiple grocer and was keen to impress in the short term to try and secure the role on a permanent basis. His approach? To push the brand supplier for terms which were commercially not viable whilst completely diminishing the value of the brands, to the point of treating purely as a commodity.

Needless to say, in those circumstances, there are few winners given the immediate lack of engagement between the two sides. In this particular example of mine, despite the threats of delist for half of our range of products with this multiple grocer, we pushed back and held firm. Eventually, the buyer in question was found out and removed from the position and a more experienced buyer took the reins. The result was immediate engagement between the two sides, increased levels of investment and business growth that benefited both parties whilst recognising the value that brands have with consumers.

For a previous Inside the Cask blog post on managing customer relationships – How to avoid the Love & Hate extremes in a Customer Relationship

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