Trade relationships suffer with buyer churn

29 May, 2015

In a year of turmoil for many supermarket buying teams, 71% of suppliers polled for OLN's Wine Report say there is too much churn for them to establish long-term, effective relationships – up from 53% last year and 46% the year before.

While suppliers note that churn is nothing new in the multiples, it’s clear that concern about its effects on the rise.

Pol Roger's Nick James says: “I’ve watched this topic for a number of years and been on the end of complete ignorance, where a buyer has come in from another department with zero product knowledge.

“The person who set up this unwritten rule of changing buyers all the time to my mind knows little. Working closer for the long term will benefit both parties.”

De Bortoli business development manager Mark Wilson says: “Unfortunately most teams move on too quickly and changes are made when not necessary. On the flip side there are one or two retailers where the opposite can be said to be true.”

And Winestars World founder Catherine Monahan says: “They won’t take risks and are drowning in paperwork.”

But one supplier notes: “Changes in personnel can bring in additional opportunities, especially if the buyer has come from a company that we have previously dealt with.”

In spite of the changes, suppliers say most supermarket buyers have enough skill and experience to trade well in wine.

Sixty-seven per cent of suppliers say buyers are skilled enough – although it varies greatly from retailer to retailer.

One supplier says: “Too many are parachuted into very important roles with no knowledge at all about wine, on the basis that knowledge is not that important anymore – a sad state of affairs which is then replicated all the way through to the consumer.”

Martin Chapman, director of Peter Osborne Fine Wines, says: “Bear in mind that, most of the time, they are following computer sales stats that predict future sales and they are buying on the basis of those stats. So do you need to be that skilled?”

But one anonymous supplier warns: “Wine has to be careful not to think it is special and needs special attention. Some good FMCG practices can help spark category growth. Sadly, there has been little spark with a focus only on price.”

Another agrees: “Buyers should be the voice of the consumer. They don’t all need to be MWs – business has to be relevant.

“It’s not all about sipping and slurping, much as many of the trade would like it to be.”

Paul Letheren, joint managing director of Off-Piste Wines, says: “Buyers are also customers, and give plenty of good input on the trading side. With regards to the wine aspect of the job, I find the knowledge and skill levels more than enough.”

And Joelle Nebbe-Mornod, owner of Alpine Wines, says: “The abilities of the buying teams are not in doubt. The constraints they are under are the problem.”




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