from Chris Howarth, managing director, Bon Bon Buddies 

SIR; In your feature ‘Hard grind for buyers’ (August 2, p34), Philip Hutchinson of recruitment consultants NHA says: “It’s a little different with say, wine, but how much does a buyer really need to know about making biscuits? All he needs to know is profit margins and deals.”

I have been supplying major multiple buyers for more 20 years and have seen first hand how their roles have become more complex and demanding in that time. So from a supplier’s perspective, and in defence of buyers, I would like to point out how one dimensional Hutchinson’s understanding is of the challenges facing today’s grocery buyers of any category, and biscuits in particular.

For starters, Hutchinson omits to talk about ‘the customer’. This is the first thing a good buyer understands in all aspects, whether it is buying patterns, profiles, seasonality or what makes their customers tick.

Other knowledge areas buyers need to understand include competitor drivers, supplier landscape, brand profiles, brand/price layouts, category breakout and sector performances,own label and category promotions. 

Only when they fully understand all of the above can they develop their own category plans. And only then can they start negotiating and doing deals.

Without the right skills, ‘deal doers’ benefit nobody.

Nor does buyer churn.Except, of course, the recruitment consultants who make money on frequent buyer changes. Maybe this is what is driving Hutchinson’s hypothesis?