When it comes to the trade, partnerships can be crucial to the success of any business. Here we detail the top requirements that retailers of beds have told us they look for when sourcing potential supplier partners.
It’s fair to say that retail businesses have a lot to contend with day-to-day, from business and property rates, to channel choices, rising staff costs, the value of the pound, fuel prices, and that’s without mentioning the tribulations associated with being the point of contact for the consumer, seven days a week.
Today’s consumer has a wealth of choice as to where they spend their money, and for the retailer the goal is for that spend to be with them. A big challenge is attracting new customers, but so too is maintaining a reasonable profit margin. It doesn’t take a huge leap of faith then, to understand just how important it is for a retailer to choose the right suppliers and why they quite rightly, have strict criteria when looking for that perfect partner. We spoke to number of retailers of beds to find out what makes a perfect partner for them.
It seems obvious, but retailers need a product that looks good, will perform and of course, will sell. Many manufacturers and suppliers put in the market research and be on top of all the latest trends on behalf of their customers to ensure that they are offering exactly what the consumer is looking for. If you have such data available to you, it would certainly be appreciated by a potential retailer customer.
But that’s not all. Retailers need to stand themselves out from their competitors by offering something different, and whilst some will look for an exclusive range, others may want to be more hands on when it comes to product.
Mike Murray, managing director at Land of Beds told us: “Our aspiration is to forge two-way partnerships; to co-develop new product ranges; to be united in our approach to marketing; and to constantly evolve our offering to give the consumer what they want.” Last but not least of course, retailers must be assured that the product they stock is of the highest quality. Mike continued: “It’s not enough to meet basic regulatory standards. We’re looking for excellent craftsmanship, innovative design and the usage of high-quality materials.”
Steve Adams, director at Mattress Online said: “We rarely acquire new suppliers. Instead, we choose to work closely with a select number of manufacturers in order to provide our customers with the best possible products and service. We look for partners who share our dedication to customer feedback and product refinement, and our strategic, research-led approach.”
Another seemingly obvious answer, but a retailer needs to be sure that a range will be delivered when they are promised. In today’s digital age, it only takes one late delivery for a consumer to let their feelings be known on social media and as the point of contact for said consumer, the retailer will bear the brunt. So, as a supplier, you need to make sure your logistics are up to scratch and have a contingency plan should there be any problems.
Many suppliers provide logistics on behalf of their customers – but then there is the issue of trust, so offering reassurance to your customer that you won’t suddenly cut them out of the loop and go direct to the consumer will go a long way toward that all-important relationship. Equally, many retailers have brought their logistics in-house to ensure control over the supply. Sterling Furniture, for example told us: “Owning our fleet of vehicles and distribution centre allows control of quality service to our customers.”
The old adage goes that people buy from people, and when faced with a choice between a number of potential supplier partners offering similarly impressive credentials, it makes sense that a retailer chooses the one which most closely reflects their own business ethos.
Steve Adams explained: “We cultivate mutually-beneficial and transparent relationships with our suppliers. We look for partners who share our core values, commercial goals and unyielding commitment to quality.” Mike Murray added: “’Does this supplier share our mission to significantly improve the sleep quality of our customers?’ is our first question.”
“COMMUNICATION FROM OUR SUPPLIERS IS ESSENTIAL SO WE CAN KEEP OUR CUSTOMERS INFORMED”
Savvy suppliers should be flexible and keep in regular communication with their customers to ensure their needs are being met, and if not, how that can be addressed. It is also important to offer support in the form of POS, marketing material and staff training if necessary.
Steve Pickering, managing director of independent chain Sussex Beds told us: “A great supplier for us provides flexibility in its offering – by this I mean allowing us to tweak, change and/or add value to a product to meet our requirements of offering our customers exclusivity. After sales service is extremely important as we expect issues to be dealt with promptly and easily without fuss.”
Of course, the inevitability of life dictates that on occasion, things can go wrong. But the mettle of a good supplier is how they deal with any issues that arise in order to efficiently solve the problem for their customer.
Steve Pickering explained: “Communication is an important quality, especially if there are delays or changes. In these circumstances immediate communication from our suppliers is essential so we can keep our customers informed.”
Whilst we all know the lowest price doesn’t always equal the best solution, equally, the retailer knows that its profit margin is essential. So whilst price alone is not the biggest consideration, value for money is certainly up there.
Mike Murray told us: “Being competitive on price is another ‘must’; we want our products to be truly affordable so as many people as possible can enjoy a good night’s sleep.”