The old, stereotyped image of trading partner relations is that retailers hold most of the cards and manufacturers, especially smaller ones, face considerable costs and other challenges.
You can argue about whether this picture ever realistically described the situation, but fortunately partnerships have improved a fair amount in recent years.
Still, I’m always excited when I see a food retailer make a great partnership pitch to smaller suppliers, treating them with respect and even wooing and promising to mentor them.
I saw that recently at BevNET Live, a beverage trade event held in New York City, where Mathis Martines, beverage grocery coordinator, The Fresh Market , addressed an audience that included small suppliers, some of them startups.
He introduced to the attendees his 21-state, 116-unit operation based in Greensboro, N.C., explained the kinds of unique beverage products he looks for and the desire to be first with these items, and the expectations on suppliers.
What impressed me, however, was that he really addressed the question of “why launch with us?” in a very straightforward and detailed manner, telling suppliers what’s in it for them:
Expanding operation. Streamlined communications process. Can get things to market faster than others. No slotting fees. Fast-track it. 360 support. Exclusive signage. Best display in the store. After 10 weeks you get data. Work with you on press releases. Put you on our Facebook page. A low-cost investment for you, but real-world insight.
Wow, sounds inviting. But it gets better.
“We’re trying to be the best small step you can make for your company,” he said. “We have honest and open dialogue. We want to be brand builders, consultants.”
Martines even answered a question from the audience about how many new suppliers they’d like to take on in this way.
“I could see at least 5 or 6 brands over the next year,” he said.
This isn’t necessarily to say that The Fresh Market takes this approach with all manufacturers across all categories, but it shows a deep understanding of how to address and treat suppliers, especially when you’re hoping for exclusive relationships to get ahead of a trend.
Plus, if both retailer and supplier feel they had a good experience, even if a partnership didn’t materialize, it can only enhance the reputation of relationships in this industry.