Will a handshake keep eveyone happy? This month a retailer questions relationships with suppliers and asks for a straightforward answer
“In these challenging times, it would be great to know exactly what suppliers are looking for from their retailers, and what we, as their customers, have every right to expect. Obviously, exclusivity is key – not just for the styles bought, but for the label itself and not just for one season, but ongoing. There will be lots of tough decisions to be made here, on both sides, so transparency has to be central to the proposition.”
1. Jeanette Stevens, Enzoani
Enzoani strongly believes that a partnership between supplier and retailer is the way to achieve greater success but also face current challenges the industry throws our way.
Both retailer and supplier need to accept and recognise that one can-not exist without the other and, equally, both need to make margin to survive. They need to work together, seamlessly, in partnership to identify what is needed to face whatever the current
Recognising that not every retailer faces the same challenges is key, so a supplier needs to be able to adapt on a case-by-case basis and support accordingly. Analysing the return on investment (ROI) for a retailer, what can be done to increase this on both sides is always a good starting point. Restricting the quantity of authorised retailers (so not to flood the market) enables Enzoani to dedicate more time to each retailer and focus our attentions on how we can help them to grow their ROI. The more successful each retailer is with Enzoani, naturally the more successful Enzoani is, and vice versa.
Our perfect retailer would be one who wants to work in partnership with us, understands that both sides need to invest their time and efforts in a successful future together with a transparency and realistic approach, and to be willing to discuss and analyse, try new concepts and be prepared to commit to the brand on all levels.
Recognising that both retailer and supplier have strengths and skills and embracing that together is the perfect recipe that overcomes most challenges we meet on our way.
A retailer in our opinion should expect exactly the same from each supplier they work with. Gone are the days of ‘us’ and ‘them’ – that gap has to be bridged and so we can travel united on the same highway.
2. Richard Lill, Lionheart Portfolio for Ladybird
Unsurprisingly, suppliers are looking for the same as retailers – sales, loyalty, commitment and honesty; the challenges the industry faces are not dissimilar for both either. Like retailers, we all try to offer the very best product and service, in the hope it will inspire loyalty. What we at Ladybird look for from our retailers, is that they actively promote our brand, based on the dresses, quality, fantastic service, openness and our commitment to them being both successful and profitable. This collaboration is why with our retailers we have achieved 12 continuous months growth in brides’ orders.
We don’t pressurise our retailers to hit targets or buy a minimum number of styles, as we believe that a shop having the right dresses and support is far better than overloading them with unwanted dresses just to hit a number.
This policy can be the single determining factor that increases a retailer’s profitability. Retailers need to start looking at the facts rather than perception to assess the profitability of a brand. Analyse your business, look at the number of samples you have and have to buy against the reorders taken.
However, from a supplier’s prospective, we need to be realistic about the expected business levels from each retailer – a small rural shop may never yield the same business level as a large city centre shop – but if the supplier is getting a high percentage of each shop’s total business, then that is all we can ask for and we will support and encourage those stockists every day.
Many years ago when I was with a previous big brand, we asked our retailers which was their best-selling label? We then asked a second question: “Who is your most profitable?” All retailers knew which their best seller was but not many knew which brand was their most profitable. When they ‘ran the numbers’ almost all were shocked to find that the brand they loved and protected as their best seller was not the one that was making them money.
Exclusivity is important but if retailers have a brand which is working for them, the supplier should not want to jeopardise that relationship by opening an additional account close by.
The key to it is be honest. If a brand is not working for you, then have an open and honest conversation with the supplier and come up with an exit strategy – we publish ours in our welcome pack.
There is never any point in a retailer-supplier relationship ending in an acrimonious way; none of us ever know if our paths will need to cross again or what the future holds.
3. Billy Fitzsimons, Demetrios
In these challenging times there are many points to be considered. We are looking for continued support from stockists of our Demetrios labels to re-establish the Demetrios brand to its rightful position in the market place here in the UK and Ireland.
We will provide new and existing stockists with the level of service they have come to expect from us at SBWF; we will support our them with every possible selling advantage through social media; we will offer a loan sample service from our UK base, giving our retailers shorter delivery times and a larger loan sample selection. We will offer our stockists excellent incentives when we meet them in person and at the Excel show in March.
Retailers realise how difficult these times are and we will support them wherever possible and with mutual respect.
4. Danny Saul, Mascara
It’s a two way street if the retailer supports the manufacturer than the manufacturer supports the retailer.
Too many retailers think they have struck gold when they secure a brand exclusively and then go off to find other labels, which serves only to dilute the retailer’s support to the manufacturers and off we go and get into this big argument of exclusivity .
It’s basic economics: you buy into a brand, you stock the brand, and you sell it in volumes then the manufacturer has no necessity to find other competing retailers…
Lastly, who on earth taught the UK industry to stock sample dresses? That is the maddest, most counter-productive sales strategy that I ever came across. Again, it’s basic business… if you ain’t got it you can’t sell it. Simple .
5. Vivien Felstein, Veromia
At Veromia we have no minimums. We hope that our customers will like our styles enough to buy into our Veromia, Sonsie and Veromia Bridesmaid labels. We do not pressure them to do this. We understand that it is hard out there for the bridal retailers and we try to help as much as we can.
We offer exclusivity, but it’s a two-way street. Our Premier Bridal Stockists are automatically offered a large radius; otherwise it’s a five- to ten-mile radius.
Exclusivity is a tricky subject as all companies want to sell in to as many shops as they can. But it’s all about loyalty and by that I mean if your customer buys every time you bring out a new collection, albeit only two or three dresses but is consistent and repeats, why would you not offer them exclusivity as their shop will be full of your dresses?
However, I can under-stand the logic behind some of the big wholesalers out there forcing their customers to take big minimums to keep their area and exclusivity. It’s like the way the FMCG [fast moving consumer goods] companies like, say, Cadbury, works – the more product you have in your shop from one supplier and the nearer the front of the shop you display the product, the more likely you are to sell that label.
In our industry, the more you sell the more likely you are going to show these dresses to the brides. The more dresses you sell the more profit you make for yourself and the supplier and that is when you can demand exclusivity and the supplier can spend on the brand which in turn helps its retailers.
Every season, suppliers create, photograph and exhibit our collections. To be able to do this we need our stockists to believe in us and to buy into our collections.
At Veromia we offer extended credit terms and payment plans. We offer great customer service and
are always on the other end of the phone to give advice and to listen to what our customers tell us. We have a can-do attitude.
We offer designer days and encourage our stockists to take advantage of this. We treat our customers’ businesses like our own – we are aware always that without our loyal stockists we would have no business.
We all need to support each other and listen to each other to ensure the industry survives. As a retailer, if you have an issue with a supplier, call them.
A lot goes on within the various retailer forums. Suppliers don’t have a site like that. Maybe there should be one where retailers and suppliers can air their views, push ideas forward and find solutions to problems together. In the end communication is vital.