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Where Have They Gone? More Important, Why?

By Joel M. Albrizio, President

We are all exposed to a retail and wholesale food environment where few, if any, companies still have open buying hours on a weekly basis. Where have they gone and, even more importantly, why are they gone?

  For years the standard culture in the retail and wholesale food business was to have weekly buying hours. This was an opportunity for a vendor to have a weekly sit down with a buyer who represented his or her category for the retailer. These meetings would cover discussions on new items, special promotions, advertising monies & allowances, and more.

  Ask any retailer today and you will be delivered an open-ended response, along the lines of "If you have a new product or promotion just call us and let us know." Does this really work? The answer is no.

  With e-mail communication, text messaging, voice mail and so on, the buyer has every reason not to create contact with the vendor and do what is so important. Yet every retailer will tell the story where the other income column is now gone because the vendors no longer come to see them.

  If the vendor does not have to meet with the retailer, why would any company take it upon itself to call a meeting to increase incentives, advertising promotional monies, and almost anything else you could imagine (therefore reducing profits)?

  Today, many retailers rely on the conference call. How many times have we all forgot the purpose of a conference call as close as 15 minutes before?  By comparison, in person meetings take timely preparation that require the vendor to put something solid together that does not waste anyone’s time. Additionally, the vendor must find ideas to help the retailer grow and further the existing relationship.

  While it can be agreed that we are all busier than ever, perhaps the reason this all took place was because we, "as retailers," stopped inviting vendors to stop in with the very ideas and funds that helped build all of our companies. By comparison, chain retailers will demand top-to-top meetings where there is complete transparency that ensures every possible fund or allowance is exhausted for success.

  So the next time you turn down the opportunity to speak with a vendor, you may be asking other retail groups to enjoy the funds or ideas your organization so desperately needs.

  One possible solution to this growing issue is to reinstate open buying hours, even if on a bi-weekly basis. Take the opportunity to invite all vendors, in any reasonable category to come in and discuss the very items and ideas to put you back in the game.

  I would like to thank all of you who have written or called me with questions and ideas. 

E-mail me anytime,  joel@adlife.com