Wholesalers “need to understand their customers even better”

For wholesalers to really develop the channel and their customers’ businesses, they need to understand retailers’ mindset and aspirations, Tom Fender, managing director of consultancy him! Research told the FWD Conference.

Work recently undertaken by the company provided wholesalers with valuable insights into their customers, he said.

“All independents are entrepreneurs at heart. They rarely switch off [from their businesses], are serious and are often quite conservative (although 52% use the internet to conduct business) and risk averse – but they also love solving problems and challenges. They are also born worriers, savvy and opinionated – so how you communicate and offer advice is important if you want them to take it!”

As to independents’ attitude to suppliers, there were some very mixed messages. “81% of them think suppliers are ‘in bed’ with the multiples,” he said. “But at the same time the majority of them think they are getting better. Because they are independent, most of them take offence at words like ‘compliance’ but 66% of them follow manufacturer planograms and range advice; and 53% think suppliers will stop supporting them if core range recommendations are not followed. Perhaps most significantly for suppliers, 23% of indie retailers want to improve their value line offering, but 17% wanted to improve their premium offering.”

Insights related to communicating with retailers included: “Independent retailers love the trade press and love sales reps. And profit margin is still regarded as the most important thing they need to know when making stocking decisions.”

Him! had also examined consumer attitudes to independent retailers. “Some 82% of consumers want their local independent shop to prosper,” said Fender. “And 69% think independents offer a credible alternative to the multiples, so there is a huge amount of goodwill out there towards the sector.”

In a later presentation, Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman told Conference that a survey conducted in May indicated that there was “a degree of optimism afoot in the sector”, with some 20% of retailers intending to invest in their businesses in the coming 12 months.

“Wholesalers can help this improvement by building bridges between the independent retailers and suppliers,” he said.

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