Growers must wise up to all the latest retailing practices There is a growing awareness among fresh produce growers that they need to have a better understanding of how their retail customers think and operate, according to the Millennium Managers' project, formed in the wake of trade fair Hortex. "Growers and producers must seek an in-depth knowledge of the retail industry that they service," said chairman Patrick Bastow. "They need to understand the principles of marketing and customer service that retailers use." Traceability, quality assurance, logistics and price negotiation skills are just a few of the areas that Bastow wants the scheme to develop. "Some key strategic areas are now within the suppliers' domain for the first time. It is essential that suppliers know how to use these opportunities to full advantage." An industry weekend is being arranged for October 14 and 15, supported by Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the Cambridgeshire TEC. "Being a British supplier should in itself be a competitive advantage," says Barstow. "But a better grasp of category management, for example, could allow the supplier and the retailer to develop joint strategies. This would include areas such as product development, merchandising and promotional planning." The potential rewards are substantial: "Achieving this would mean partnerships can become much more constructive." Up to 150 delegates are exected for the October weekend. With practical workshops and business simulations, it will draw on experience gained in sectors other than just fresh produce. "Managers in the horticultural sector have a responsibility to move with the changes and take the industry forward. It is essential they are equipped with the business acumen they need to make correct decisions in the future." Topics covered in October will include marketing, financial management, staff motivation and continuous personal development. "Millennium Managers is about addressing the changes in the industry that have been driven by the retailer in direct response to consumer needs." {{PEOPLE MOVES }}