Where are you on the retailer/supplier collaboration maturity curve?

September 10, 2014
patrick-quigley's picture
By Patrick Quigley
SVP & Gen Mgr, Field Operations
Let’s say you are going on a big trip. Wouldn’t it be nice to know where you were starting from?


It sure would make it easier to draw a map to your destination or to take the first step, for that matter.  For many grocers who want to find new ways to leverage their suppliers to help them improve their business, answering that question—Where am I starting?—is harder than you’d think.

One problem is that merchandising teams are rarely just one team.

Often they are a loose conglomeration of multiple groups and departments, each with their own ways of working with suppliers. Not everyone sets goals or measures outcomes the same way. Sometimes pockets of expertise or untapped resources lie undiscovered and underutilized in some corner of the organization. Get everyone in the same room and ask, “So how do we work with our suppliers today? What works well? How could we make that better?” and you will get a lot of different answers, most of which will not align. That's where things get messy.

I have spent the last year crisscrossing the country to meet with dozens of grocery merchants with the sole purpose of understanding how their collaboration efforts with suppliers could change to help them better succeed with their shoppers. One thing has become clear to me:

While each grocer is at a different point on the retailer/supplier collaboration maturity curve, they all have the same goal: to improve.

Most grocers would agree that if they could make how they work with their suppliers smarter, more shopper-focused, and more efficient, they could grow sales and margins and generally do a better job delighting customers. However, since they aren’t really sure how they work with suppliers today, it’s hard to say how they could improve that process.

  • What’s already going well?
  • What needs to be fixed?
  • What short list of improvements are the logical next steps to move up the maturity curve?
  • What investments or changes will yield the disproportionately largest return soonest to the business?
  • And how would the first step put them on the path that ultimately gets them to their destination?

These are questions that need to be answered.  Here is my advice:

Start by figuring out where you are on the maturity curve of retailer/supplier collaboration.

One easy way to do this is to use this Snapshot Assessment Tool to benchmark your company’s maturity in terms of collaboration with suppliers with other leading retailers and industry averages.  Ask a few people on your team to go through the same exercise. Then discuss the results and work together to identify where you are on your journey toward improved supplier collaboration. The result will be a clearer picture of where you are today and which steps would have the biggest, most immediate impact on your business. 

Category:  Retailer-Supplier Collaboration