The new supplier/buyer model

HandshakeIf a retailer is looking for a new buyer, it is entirely logical to ask around. And the first people to ask are your suppliers – they deal with a number of buyers every day and they know who the good ones and not so good ones are. It is the buyers who have treated suppliers with respect who get the thumbs up.

This does not mean that buyers have to grovel to suppliers to curry favour. Naturally, there will be differences of opinion on a regular basis. The buyer wants the best price and best deal, while the suppliers have to negotiate the best price on their side.

But it is a question of how this is handled on both sides that counts. Especially from the buyer’s side, because they invariably have the power.   And power is what it is all about. There are many buyers who are stimulated by using their power and driving suppliers into the ground.

The old supplier/buyer model was almost entirely adversarial. Then, one day retailers realised that a give/take relationship was far more productive and so things started to change. Except there are certain buyers who have not heard of this change and who continue to treat suppliers like dirt.

Here are some of the comments passed by suppliers:

  • Some buyers are just plain arrogant.
  • Many do not return telephone calls – ever.
  • Many don’t respond to emails.
  • Buyers are overly demanding and want to screw suppliers.
  • They will extract so much from a supplier, forcing them to consider whether it is in fact worthwhile to continue to supply the retailer.

Regrettably, the behaviour of buyers is invariably company centric. If one buyer in a company is a ratbag, then many of their peers are also ratbags.

But the rub comes when the ratbag buyers want another job. Their reputations precede them – and people don’t forget. I tend to be conservative when asked to provide references.

Some time ago I was asked for a reference for a particularly nasty buyer. Apart from this, she wasn’t very good – the type who would comment every six months, “new season, same shit”. I gave her a scathing reference and there was no way she was going to get that job based on the opinion I gave of her.

Buyers who have half a brain treat suppliers with respect and a degree of humility. They may even take them for a coffee or a lunch. They get to know them as people. They are interested in their challenges and pressures. And when that supplier has a special deal, which buyer do you think they will go to first? The one who treats them with disdain and contempt, or the one who treats them with politeness and respect.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at or 0414 631 702.


1 comment

  1. Mark posted on July 1, 2016

    The big issue with most buyers is that their bonuses which can be substantial are made of a KPI,s that encourage them the screw suppliers eg Cost , Reduction , better rebates , more promo spend. The comment re company centric is spot on we all know who they are. What buyers need to realise is that the need to ensure they have longterm viable suppliers because ultimately is best for their customers. Ta

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