The most frustrating thing in dealing with buyers is it takes about three months to get their attention and then, when you have got them interested and demonstrated how your brand can make a difference to the category, some bright spark decides to shift them to another category or they leave the business. It is a pain in the arse and puts you right back at square one. This is exactly the situation I have found myself in with Somerfield. My instinct is to hit the roof but wiser heads prevail and advise a more understanding approach. After all, I am frequently told, when you are dealing with the retail gods one should be mindful of incurring their wrath.
The other trick buyers use to get you out of their hair is to ask for impossible margins. Margins so unworkable it has left me dumbfounded that any sane and fair-minded person could even suggest it. But suggest they do, because when you’re one of the big boys these are the games they play.
Anyway, I don’t want to spend this month slagging off buyers because they might start to think I have got it in for them.
In times of deep frustration what fuels my determination to get my sausages into every supermarket are the lovely letters, emails and phone calls I get from consumers who have been converted to The Black Farmer sausages.
For all potential food suppliers out there my advice is this. The road to supermarket heaven is via your consumers. The most important thing is to have advocates, they are the best asset a brand can have. My goal for The Black Farmer brand is to become a ‘must stock’ item. I want to be like Kellogg’s, Cadbury’s and Heinz, brands a retailer would not dare not to list unless they wanted to receive the wrath of their customers.
These brands have been around for decades. Most of them pre-date the supermarkets (as we know them today), so they were able to develop a consumer following before the supermarkets became all powerful. For the rest of us, we just hope the Gods are on our side. But when it’s my turn to be delivered to the great supermarket in the sky (buyers don’t get excited, I’m not ready yet), the first thing I will do is get together with the original founders — Mr Kellogg, Mr Heinz and Mr Cadbury — and form a guardian angel club. Our aim will be to protect any new supplier trying to get their brand into the supermarkets. As there’s no worldly organisation that can do it, it’s going to have to be down to those on the other side…