Time to redefine the ‘special’ relationship?

Published: 29 September 2014

Having spent over 18 years within consumer and retail executive search and managed numerous briefs, I have heard the terms ‘partnership, ‘collaboration’ and ‘win win’ too many times and in a variety of contexts.

The retailer and supplier relationship is a delicate one and some may say not too dissimilar to a marriage, as both sides enter into an agreement with expectations and promises to each other. Unfortunately so many of these relationships, particularly within the consumer products world, seem to be falling apart, because the ‘consumer’ stops being the focus of dialogue for both sides.

Everywhere you look the media is full of articles about the demise of Tesco and the rise of the likes of Aldi, Lidl, Sainsbury’s and so on. But how long before these retailers too will face their own challenges? Consumer needs and demands will surely continue to change and evolve. And so must the conversation, to more than just price and margin. In fact, the businesses that offer true expertise in their categories seem to be setting a trend. Not trying to be everything to everybody seems to work… whether you are a retailer or manufacturer, it comes back to really understanding your customer.

Whilst it is true that many suppliers now invest heavily in market data, shopper insight and new product development, there is still a sense that the retailer and the supplier are looking out for ‘number one’ which does not appear to be the consumer. Both sides recognise the need for change across a number of areas, but perhaps the most obvious starting point would be to redefine the relationship.

Alka Gandhi is a Consultant within the Consumer Practice at Berwick Partners 

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