Does your business really know what ‘good’ retailers need? What small changes could make big differences to sales? One retailer – Nisa’s Harry Goraya in Gravesend – told suppliers at the HIM! Networking brunch yesterday five key things that would make a difference to his business:

1. Suppliers need to think about the category, not the brand

Harry told suppliers that they undermine the value of engaging with pro-active retailers. “There are a limited number of suppliers that really understand how important C-stores are.” But he explained that Danone is one of them. “They came to our store and helped to restructure our chilled section – they focused on the whole category rather than just one product and we ended up growing sales. If a supplier just pushes their brand and nothing else, any ‘good’ retailer switches off.”

2. We need more support with fast-growing categories

Although Harry had been doing ‘food to go’ for five years, he wasn’t doing it well. “We had a kettle in the corner and some cups and tea bags – but that’s not what customers wanted.” After searching for a supplier that could offer them more support, the category grew. “Cuisine de France helped us to offer the right products and to train our staff. We brought in fresh coffee beans and started a loyalty scheme – if the customer bought 5 cups they’d get the 6th one free. Our shop is near a bus garage so it was really popular.”

3. Field sales teams need to know who’s is in charge

Red Bull’s category manager Barry Wilson asked Harry what advice he would give their field sales force, which has recently grown. A common mistake made by many field reps is not speaking to the right person. “It doesn’t matter how pretty the lady at the till is, she’s probably not the manager which means you’re not speaking to the right person,” said Harry. “It’s important to find the manager because any good retailer can be upsold to. We’ve run tastings in the past based on supplier’s advice. They’ve been so popular that we now do four a year.”

4. PMPS on tobacco need better margins

Last year, Harry didn’t have any price-marked packs on tobacco but after big price hikes, he decided to give them a go. “We weren’t happy about it but our consumers demanded PMPs. We did it to give them the perception of value but it hasn’t increase our volume sold – the margins are tight which is hard when we have so many overheads to pay. PMPs could be good but the margin needs to be good for the retailer, as well as the consumer.”

5. Social media: don’t leave the retailer out of promotions

Harry said that he’s not a big fan of social media although he would engage with suppliers on it. He pointed out that too many suppliers address consumers only, rather than retailers. “I read a consumer-facing promotion from Coca-Cola recently and I was disappointed that they had left the retailer out – if they incentivise us they would sell a hell of a lot more – we’d be pushing that product out the door!”