New York, NY—As the industry gears up for the first trade shows of the year, I started thinking about the continued consolidation in our industry. The retailers and manufacturers that have remained strong all have something in common: they realize how the vendor-retailer relationship works together to succeed through the market challenges we all face. Today, who you choose as a business partner becomes a very important strategic decision. The day of choosing a vendor just because of price has come and gone for better stores.
A manufacturer today should have real interest in your business. Why? Because everyone wants to experience long-term growth and ROI. This means that manufacturers need to go beyond just selling product and designs; they need to provide added value that will help both parties be successful. That’s what strategic partnership is.
There are different ways to do this. Offering associate training on your merchandise should be a given, but beyond that there are different kinds of loyalty programs or tiered loyalty programs based on sales volume that can provide added value services like tools and technology, display systems, special programs, rebates, membership to an inventory analysis or financial consulting group, and so forth. All are things that can help the retailer improve his or her business—and, by extension, the vendors he or she sells.
Web-based B2C sales generation applications provide additional depth for a retailer’s website, allowing the consumer to browse and purchase from an even greater selection of inventory. (Read more here about optimal online inventory). Associate incentives—whether monetary or point-based metrics for recognition and reward—help to develop a community of sales associates that become highly knowledgeable and loyal followers of products and tools. Other important benefits include co-op advertising support, in-store events, options for private-label product, and more.
Choosing the right partners to help you grow your business long term takes time, evaluation, and measurement of goals so that everyone has some “skin in the game” and a vested interest in program success and sell-through. With more and more demands on retailers’ time, vendors need to be more active participants in driving sell-through, not just selling in. A vendor partner should be able to demonstrate that they understand your business, your current inventory mix and needs, and your target customer. They should be able to identify your “white space” and make strategic recommendations for both incremental and “smarter” business.
Take the time to evaluate added value beyond just price and product. Look for a partner who can not only supply product and brands relevant to today’s consumer, but who also knows how to help you tell the story that will drive those consumers to your store.
The Centurion Newsletter welcomes guest editorials about relevant issues in the industry from retailers, manufacturers, and other members of the industry. Contact Hedda Schupak, editor, firstname.lastname@example.org or (610) 393-1955 for information about how to submit your thoughts.