FDBuyer: It Ain’t Just Walmart
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Frozen & Dairy Buyer magazine.
Right at deadline, a manufacturer friend e-mailed me to vent his frustration about working with Walmart lately. That’s not unusual — I hear all the time from both retailers and manufacturers about skirmishes with "partners" who have freshly driven them a little crazy.
Typically, when they’ve finished venting, the question people ask is, "Has anybody else had the same problem I’m having, or is it just me?"
Anyway, I took my friend’s rant, pasted it into an e-mail (without his name and company) and sent it around to people I consider straight shooters. As the responses came in, I came to two conclusions.
First, my friend was not alone in his frustration over the specific problems he was having. And second, most of what I was hearing about Walmart, I was also hearing about nearly all retailers — at least from the vendor’s point of view.
In Walmart’s case, I’m happy to point out, the venting that people have sent me almost always has to do with a policy or a direction the company is taking. It’s never ever been about lack of honesty or forthrightness from anybody at the company. That’s rare, and it’s why I have always loved Walmart. Simply put, the people are class acts. Vendors invariably tell me they always know where they stand with Walmart, and that no devious games are played.
So my friend’s complaint about Walmart has nothing to do with dishonesty. It has to do, essentially, with category captains having too much power, and buying teams not having enough experience. In other words, it has to do with money.
The industry just doesn’t seem to be able to afford the basics anymore. Category captains are getting too much power because buying staffs everywhere (not just at Walmart) are trying to do more with less. Staffs are smaller, workloads have increased, endless new "reports" have to be turned in, memos read, and there’s barely time to meet with manufacturers at all — let alone work up decent schematics and promotions.
I don’t know about you, but if I were as stressed out as today’s buyers, I’d be sorely tempted to lean on those category captains too much, just so I could have a life. But if I were really smart, I’d lean on some of those strong secondary suppliers to validate what my category captains have suggested.
Discussion Questions: What do you see as the weak points in the buying process for major retailers? Are stores relying too much on category captains?