They’re the best in the business and Fiona McLelland tells you why

As the trading climate toughened for British retailers last year, there were plenty of stories about pricing wars and supplier squeeze. But it’s not all doom and gloom for the buyer-supplier relationship. For the past year, suppliers have nominated the buyers that they most admired for The Grocer’s monthly Six of the Best feature. And now we’ve pulled together the results of the surveys to reveal what our group of suppliers really thinks makes a good buyer.
Yogurts, tobacco, confectionery, soup and healthcare were some of the categories covered over the year and all the manufacturers that helped us compile our reports spoke about the qualities they liked in a buyer. Honesty, integrity, clarity, category knowledge and willingness to get innovative products on shelf featured highly.
For an industry that often grumbles about lack of true product innovation, one of the most obvious themes running though the year was suppliers’ liking for buyers who listened to new ideas.
Comments ranged from: “She is always looking at ways to challenge the category” or “keen to drive the ambient category forward through new product development and volume-driving activity” and “proactively champions new product innovation”.
Another common trait held in high esteem was a buyer’s ability to communicate clearly. “He has a tough negotiating style but is fair in the way he deals with suppliers” and “he’s very straight-talking, knows what he wants, is willing to listen and you always know where you are” plus “does exactly what he says he will do and on the day he said he would”.
Although many suppliers appreciated approachability in a buyer, a tough demeanour was also appreciated. “Drives a hard bargain” and “tough talking” were terms of praise used by many of our suppliers.
But they also liked to deal with buyers who kept their promises: “She’s very honest, open to new ideas and you know exactly where you stand” and “created good relationships with suppliers by being totally honest and never promising things she can’t deliver”.
And last, but by no means least, suppliers liked to think that a buyer listens to what they had to say.

1 John Wyatt, trainee buyer, fish, desserts and ice cream, Asda; - 2 Simon Lewis, senior buyer, ice cream and frozen desserts, Sainsbury; - 3 Mike Lewis, senior buyer, frozen foods, Morrisons; - 4 Nicki Baggot, frozen food buyer, Waitrose; - 5 Jenny Clarke, buyer, ice cream and frozen confectionery, The Co-operative Group; - 6 Wendy White, frozen foods buying manager, ice creams and desserts, Tesco; - 7 Danny Ayton, category buyer, Booker; - 8 Guy Mason, buyer tobacco, stamps and lottery, Asda; - 9 Peter Newton, category buyer, tobacco, spirits and fortified wines, The Co-operative Group; - 10 Howard Robbins, head parallel and grey food team, Tesco; - 11 Christine Sandys, senior buyer, tobacco, Budgens; - 12 Liz Smith, category buyer, newspapers, magazines, cigarettes and tobacco, Somerfield; - 13 Adele Balmforth, cake buyer, The Co-operative Group; - 14 Andrew Clegg, senior buyer, plant bread, in-store bakery and patisserie, Morrisons; - 15 Amanda Peberdy, buying manager, bread, Asda; - 16 Gavin O’Reilly, buyer for cold and hot pies and pre-packed salads, Somerfield; - 17 Gill Woodfield, in-store bakery development manager, The Co-operative Group; - 18 Debbie Allwright, buying manager, soft drinks, Tesco; - 19 Mike Luck, chilled drinks buyer, dairy, Sainsbury; - 20 John Schofield, ambient buyer, 3663; - 21 Matt Spencer, buying manager, soft drinks, Asda; - 22 Jamie Winter, fresh food trading manager, Morrisons; - 23 Dudley Cooper, buyer, crisps and snacks, Morrisons; - 24 Clare Cox, buyer for crisps and snacks, Asda; - 25 Simon Mills, category buyer, Booker; - 26 Laura Shears, buying manager, world foods, Asda; - 27 Ian Tidmarsh, buying director, Julian Graves; - 28 Chris Wall, trading controller, Nisa central buying consortium; - 29 Sue Cloke, foodmarket manager, Harvey Nichols; - 30 Chris Dawson, prepacked and service cheese buyer, Waitrose; - 31 Jonathan Miller, grocery buyer, Fortnum & Mason; - 32 Michael Rimmer, special selection buyer, Sainsbury; - 33 David Smith, buyer, Booths Supermarkets; - 34 Dominic Weston, senior buyer, grocery, tea and coffee, confectionery, House of Fraser; - 35 Naomi Hansell, yogurts and desserts buying manager, Asda; - 36 Tim Wykes, fresh food buyer, Morrisons; - 37 Kate Luscombe, buyer of provisions bread, cakes and meat, Batleys; - 38 Orla Forde, buyer, fresh dairy products, Somerfield; - 39 Kevin Barber, trading director, fresh, frozen and produce, Netto; - 40 Ian Cameron, trading manager, Costcutter; - 41 Phil Hancock, confectionery buyer, Asda; - 42 Kate Kind, buyer, year-round confectionery, Waitrose; - 43 Olympia Lindgren, buying manager, confectionery, Sainsbury; - 44 Henna Popat, confectionery buyer, Somerfield; - 45 Sharon Segal, buying manager, confectionery, Tesco; - 46 Ian Lovell, senior buyer, Morrisons; - 47 Kenton Burchell, category controller, Londis; - 48 Alasdair Davidson, category buyer, The Co-operative Group; - 49 Bill Randles, buyer, pork, bacon and sausage, Sainsbury; - 50 Sophie Wilson, project manager, Waitrose; - 51 Yseult Caroff-Richeux, buyer, chilled prepared foods (fresh pasta pizzas, soups and sauces), Waitrose; - 52 Richard Dent, buyer, canned grocery, Asda; - 53 Vanessa Pearson, buyer, chilled pasta, pasta sauce, soup and bread, Sainsbury; - 54 Rachel Ryan, buyer, chilled pizza, breads, pasta, soup and sauce, Somerfield; - 55 Darren Schofield, senior grocery buyer, canned goods and soups, Morrisons; - 56 Mark Suddaby, buying manager, canned grocery, Tesco; - 57 Vanessa Campbell, healthcare and beauty manager, Tesco; - 58 Max Hunter, dental, femcare and tissues buyer, Boots; - 59 Rohit Sakhuja, buying manager, oral care and feminine care, Tesco; - 60 John Shoesmith, healthcare buyer, Asda.
Not pictured are: Nigel Sharp, healthcare and well-being buyer, Waitrose; -; -Jeremy Summers, senior buying manager, healthcare, Tesco; - James Dickson, bakery buyer, Waitrose; - Stuart Owens, ambient and chilled juice buyer, Waitrose; - Andrea Rickard, category manager, confectionery, The Co-operative Group.