The Art of Sales Prevention: Grocery Supply Chain Style
By Mark Lilien, Consultant, Retail Technology Group
Sales prevention techniques, as we’ve previously discussed on RetailWire (see Perfecting
the Art of Sales Prevention), have been perfected by new car dealerships and their sales floor personnel.
Although, it’s hard to imagine a level of incompetence on the same level in the business-to-business arena, there are numerous accounts where suppliers have seemingly thrown common sense out the window and engaged in practices that seem designed to prevent sales for their business and those of the customers they serve.
The following is the tale of an independent grocer and its supply chain partners. The names of the companies and individuals have been withheld to protect the innocent and guilty.
Let’s keep out-of-touch
For grocers, especially store managers and independent owners such as the one whose experience is discussed within this article, the face of the manufacturer is often the DSD route person who delivers product to the store.
If there’s a problem, it would be great to be able to contact the responsible person on the manufacturer side using the phone. Several major companies, however, complicate the matter by, for example, not printing their addresses or phone numbers on bills presented to the retailer. Drivers usually don’t get business cards either so, if there’s a problem, the customer often has to start an independent search to try and put things right.
For example, in the past couple of months, our intrepid independent grocer began a search looking for the local zone manager of several major manufacturers in the carbonated beverage, ice cream, salty snacks and packaged bakery categories because the contact information was not readily available. Although the right person was eventually reached at nine separate suppliers, the grocer couldn’t help but wonder why it couldn’t have been handled in an easier and less time-consuming manner.
Delayed response mechanisms
Over a month ago, the independent grocer hero of this story contacted three major manufacturers to ask for display racks since his wholesaler would not supply him with any. In each case, the grocer used the manufacturers’ Web sites to send e-mails and followed that up with calls to the toll-free consumer number on product packages.
All of the companies responded in identical fashion. The grocer was given contact information for at least three different people within each organization. When they were reached, they each told the grocer that they were not the right person to speak to. After repeated follow-up calls and e-mails, the ever-persistent grocer eventually found someone who said they could help. Problem solved, right? One month later and our independent grocer still anxiously awaits the day when the display racks will show up at his store.
Moderator’s Comment: Is the experience of the independent grocer in this article, common in the industry? What are the most effective independent grocers
doing to make sure they get the support they need from grocery wholesalers and other suppliers to drive business?
– Mark Lilien – Moderator