How to create a great partnership with a manufacturer

Mandeep Singh recently wrote about the value of partnership to his business. He is clearly not alone in working closely with manufacturers and key suppliers as the star Local Shop Summit retailers Paul Cheema, Roli Ranger and Bintesh Amin all benefit from this sort of relationship.

These are not one sided relationships where only the manufacturer or the retailer gains more than the other. They are relationships that are founded on the respect that both parties have for each other. To understand how this sort of relationship works and why manufacturers engage with them I spoke to Simon Digby of Heinz as bR.com retailer Paul Cheema has a strong partnership with his company.

Simon said “Although we have built up a great deal of knowledge about the convenience sector we continue to look for leading edge retailers who we can learn from. Paul and Pinda Cheema have a store that is packed with stunning ideas, yet they are always willing to try new something new.”

Great independent retailers are those who bring in new ideas along with brilliant execution.
They will also be open and receptive to suggestions that the manufacturer partner makes such as with category advice. Although the best planograms have the flexibility to take account of local sales trends these key retailers are willing to share their sales data with their partners so that success or failure can be measured with real numbers. They understand the value of price marked products and how these lines help to manage their customers perceptions about the price challenge that supermarkets create.

These retailers will be regularly getting out of the stores and going to trade shows and trade association meetings that will give them the opportunity to meet other progressive retailers and manufacturers. These trips give them the chance to share ideas and learn from others who are at the top of their game. They will also regularly test their performance by entering into industry awards like the Independent Achievers Academy.

Companies like Heinz gain significantly from spending time with the best retailers and this helps to mould the advice and guidance that they can pass on to the rest of the channel. The big challenge is how to help aspiring retailers improve the performance of their business.

These retailers regularly appear in the trade press as they are great spokesmen and women for best practice. When Heinz needs a quote from a retailer for Know Grocery, Grow Grocery we know that retailers like Paul Cheema will always come up with the goods.

In the Retail Express One Minute Category Manager on Grocery that was published earlier this year Paul said “These days you need every business advantage you can get. That’s why working with a major supplier, like Heinz in the Convenience sector makes so much sense. Implementing their grocery advice on things like range, space and display can really pay off. We went a step further and held a joint community summer BBQ event with Heinz which was a great success, attracting more customers and generating more sales.”

The convenience sector needs to thrive and owner operated stores who invest their own cash, time and energy in their business is hugely motivating for manufacturers who have an obligation to absorb the best ideas and share them with the channel.

Paul Cheema’s Guide to Partnerships

  1. Get out of your shop and go to network meetings or trade shows.
  2. Talk to manufacturers & suppliers about your business and discover what tools they have to help you improve it.
  3. Invite manufacturers’ representatives to your shop and discuss your strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Share your sales data and invite the manufacturer to use their knowledge and skill to help you sell more.
  5. The manufacturers’ advice needs to be category based, not just their own products. Great manufacturers look at how they can grow the category.
  6. Enter industry awards such as the Independent Achievers Academy.
  7. The best partnerships are where the manufacturer takes learning from the retailer as well as giving advice.
  8. The big key is get out of your shop and go to events where you can meet the key people from manufacturers like Simon Digby and also talk to other retailers who have already developed positive supplier



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