Andrew Rayner_opinion quote


Last week I received an out-of-office response from a buyer stating “due to the high volume of e-mails I receive, please expect a delay in my response”. This frank auto-response highlights a growing problem in the grocery trading world as head office cost-cutting, increasing complexity and a shrinking pool of commercial staff are limiting the way in which trading is carried out.

Buyers want to work through opportunities and ideas with their suppliers, get issues resolved quickly and build trusting relationships. This is the only way they will stay ahead of their competitors. But they are stifled by internal projects, short-term requests, unnecessary meetings and report writing. All this is confounded by staff cuts and shortages with many buyers now covering multiple categories and admin staff being reduced.

In some cases, this is forcing commercial staff to compromise on servicing their shoppers and suppliers. Commercial decisions are often based around time management and scarcity of human resources rather than long-term strategy and collaboration. Now that most major retailers have made significant staff reductions in their head office operations, it is now vital that they focus on how best to keep their front-line trading teams motivated, supported and in good supply.

In addition, head office management need to commit to reducing internal e-mails, processes, projects and meetings that keep trading teams away from their external facing roles. In our smaller business, we have already put rules in place about internal e-mails – they are only to be used to share attachments and for formal approvals. Everything else is to be done by walking over to someone’s desk. This removes the unnecessary clutter of e-mail but also removes the need for a future meeting in the diary.

It is clear that the retailers that will outperform over the next few years are the ones that have the time to think outside the box, understand their customers, bring new projects and brands to market, and collaborate with their suppliers. So if you are in the retail business, please give your buyers the time to answer their e-mails.

Andrew Rayner is head of sales at Childs Farm baby toiletries