We Featured In The Grocer

This month we featured in The Grocer.

I’m a buyer, get me out of here?

HRA Global’s MD Hamish Renton (a former category director at Tesco) spoke to features writer Megan Tatum about how the role of the buyer in the supermarket kingdom has changed significantly.

Categories were small, “turf wars” breaking out at the first sign of a fast-growth SKU.

“You were the trifle, cheesecake and mousse guy, with tiramisu or indulgent yoghurts looked after by someone else” and “if there was a high-growth subarea spats would rumble on for months.”

It was sometime between the late 1990s and late 2000s (depending on who you talk to) and the “golden age of retailing”. The discounters had arrived but were yet to make their mark, with “easy volume gains to be had if a buyer at one of the bigger retailers was doing a good job,” adds Renton.

But “it’s not that market any more, for reasons we all know.” We do. There was the economic crash, and the vertical drop into austerity; two major spikes in food price inflation; and the repositioning of discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl. The consequence has been a remorseless focus on price to win back volume, with margins squeezed, sometimes fatally so.

Far less examined though has been the impact of that shift on the role of the buyer, and to the ranges and supplier relationships at the big four and beyond.

The change is stark, believes Renton. Not least “the amount of physical footage one buyer is responsible for” – the ‘trifle, cheesecake and mousse’ guy now in charge of the entire dessert category, sometimes more.

Crucially, the resources to grapple with it are less. “You always used to have a merchandiser and stock controller so if you were doing a remerch or a particularly difficult supplier selection you had another couple of pairs of eyes from within the team that knew your category.”

For a supermarket buyer, the estate you’re selling through is also much more complicated, too. “Ten or 15 years ago we were getting our heads around c-stores at one end and monster Extras at the other, while dot- “Buyers are com was only bubbling up. Now there is more and more sophistication to cope with.”….

To read more of this article by Megan Tatum, click here. This is an extract from the 15th September 2018 issue of The Grocer.

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