Top 7 Mistakes Suppliers Make When Selling to UK Retailers

 I was recently asked to give a talk at the Natural and organic product show about what mistakes suppliers make when selling to the retailers – both from my experience as a buyer and also as a seller – what has gone right and what has been a horrible disaster!

So I thought out what are the key mistakes we make?

Mistake 1 – Forgetting the buyer is human!

I am really guilty of this one – I have sent out an email to a buyer and no reply so think, being somewhat paranoid, they are ignoring me. But actually I forget that the buyer is human and busy and has a lot of other things on her plate other than talking to me. Such as:

  • Challenging sales targets (NEVER phone a buyer on a Monday…)
  • Supplier/product problems: quality, logistics, sudden crises, etc.
  • The stores themselves not doing what they are supposed to do!!
  • New launches and promotion challenges
  • Constant pressure from the competition
  • Pressure to find or develop great new products: THAT SELL!


Mistake 2 Right product, wrong retailer

You love your brand – you have made it the best in terms of recipe, packaging, pricing is spot on and you have a load of social media follows but… might be approaching the wrong retailer – Poundland is not right for Prada and Harrods probably don’t sell white sliced bread for 55p!! Think about your brand strategy and do you fit the retailer you are targeting. Some things to consider are

  • Who is your target customer?
  • What is your price positioning?
  • Do you have the capacity or plans to outsource?
  • Do you/your producer have the right accreditation (e.g. Salsa, BRC)?
  • Can you meet retailer margin expectations & still make a profit?
  • Can you deliver to their depot or store configuration?
  • How much can you afford to invest in trade marketing?


Mistake 3 Right product, wrong buyer

I did a talk with Nick Coleman of Snaffling pig recently who make pork scratchings. His business sells bagged snacks so he would go the snacks buyer – right? WRONG!! He does have bags of pork scratchings but they are great for the food to go aisle, yes snacks, but also does kilner jars for gifting and has even launched a joint venture this week on pizza with Papa Johns – so know the right buyer cos if you get the wrong one, your email may just go unanswered

Mistake 4 – Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

It’s a classic adage but it is so true – know your market, your numbers, your product capabilities and …..the buyer. Go through the following checklist

  • Who is the buyer – social media is your friend – build a profile and find some areas of common interest
  • Know the retailer current strategy and have a look at the info they share on websites – see the sites below

  • Business performance and KPIs – what is the buyers KPI – are they driven by cash profit or margin?
  • Visit the stores and speak to managers – they can be very insightful


Mistake 5 – Selling the brand, not the opportunity

Don’t sell the features and benefits of your brand unless you think through how that will help your buyer achieve THEIR targets. Will your brand:

  • Increase consumer footfall (with the right customers?)
  • Revitalise the flagging category and raise average cash profit
  • Create differential from other retail competition


Mistake 6 Being afraid to walk away!

You may get the meeting, do everything right and then the buyer asks you for a cost price that is your cost!! Never be afraid to walk away – you might be too expensive maybe due to low volumes, poor purchasing power etc but they may also be negotiating hard and by walking away you will determine if they are really interested. There is no point being a busy fool just to say you are in Tesco (other retailers are available!).

My book Recipe for success has a chapter on Negotiation which is well worth reading – order kindle version now – click here

Mistake 7 Being afraid to walk back!

Many suppliers once they have been turned down, cross their target retailer off the list. But no doesn’t mean no forever……things change. And here are some reasons to go back:

  • Your timing may have been wrong – time for a range review, time for change
  • Your offer may have improved – costs come down with more volumes or developed a stunning new marketing strategy
  • The buyer has changed – this is a classic one – a new buyer may have a different view on where she wants the category to go so fresh new opportunity


So go forth and get those retail listings and if you are unsure, contact me for an informal chat about how I can help you –

Plus I have written a bonus FREE Ultimate Guide to Category Strategy so click on picture to get yours now

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