Five ways merchants can better partner with suppliers
The supplier-merchant relationship is a key part of the success of any industry. In order for both businesses to succeed, strong relationships and collaboration are vital to get ahead. In our latest blog we take a look at some of the ways builders’ merchants can improve their partnerships with suppliers.
‘Supply chain collaboration’ is a well-known phrase. Merchants need suppliers to provide the products for their customers, and suppliers need merchants to sell to; the relationship is interdependent. According to the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS), best practice in this area includes relationships that have shared goals, supplier development, and integration of business processes.
All suppliers should want their merchant partners to do well, as this can lead to mutual growth and a streamlined, more effective working relationship. However, too often the relationship is purely transactional, with many of the benefits of collaboration not realised. At Artex, we believe in working in close collaboration with our builders’ merchant partners. Here are some of the key ways we do that:
1. Understanding the customer
Branch managers and their teams work closely with tradespeople, contractors and consumers to ensure they receive the building materials when and where they need them. This enables branches to understand what customers are requesting in their local area, as well as the market demand for products.
If merchant teams share this customer and local market knowledge with their suppliers, gaps in stock can be more easily identified, feedback from customers can be considered as part of renewing processes and other areas of strength – like product specialities – can be utilised.
2. Shared goals
As well as the sharing of information about customers, shared goals and objectives are another way that the merchant and supplier relationship can become more fruitful. Agreeing to goals isn’t always simple, with merchants and suppliers often using different systems and ways of recording transactions.
However, agreements can often be made based on volumes, or sales targets, and this can give both parties a framework that means everyone is clear on their role and working towards the same goal of mutual profitability.
3. Training and product information
Builders’ merchants often stock a wide range of products, or specialise in a particular area best suited to their local market. This means branch managers and their teams are frequently required to know information about a wide variety of products. To make this simpler for builders’ merchant staff, suppliers can provide training and easy to access product information on the ranges that they offer.
At Artex, all our contact details, product information and data sheets are available to access on our website, and we offer printed versions for any merchant partner who needs them. We also provide resources in video format on our YouTube channel, which has proved popular in educating both merchant staff and their customers.
When merchant staff or their customers seek more practical training solutions, we work closely with our sister company British Gypsum and offer a wide range of practical training options.
4. Marketing support
Builders’ merchants come in all shapes and sizes and have different requirements for merchandising and marketing support that is needed.
At Artex we have a wide range of POS available for merchants to utilise – everything from shelf wobblers, to printed literature. We also work together to create joint marketing plans to engage and educate both tradespeople, contractors and their customers. Creating joint marketing plans, much like having shared goals, creates alignment and utilises the strengths of each business.
We recently launched our new ‘Gyproc has it covered’ display pallets and floor standing display units to support merchants in stocking more of our range in branch. The different sized units are perfect for any size of branch and position our range of Gyproc products right in front of the customer to help drive sales.
5. Account management
The final, and perhaps most important ingredient to effective merchant and supplier relationships is account management. By having account managers and members of the sales team available for merchants as a point of contact, combined with a strong customer service team, gives merchants the confidence that any queries will be resolved, for the benefit of their customers.
At Artex we regularly undertake customer satisfaction surveys to measure how we’re doing and use the data to improve customer experiences. For 2022 we achieved an NPS score of 63, with over 60% of our customers responding to our survey – something we’re very proud of.
Our team of Regional Account Managers are on hand to help with marketing support, range reviews and product knowledge and are there to partner with branches to maximise the success of our products for the branch.
By nurturing the relationship between suppliers and merchants, mutual profitability is achievable. In a survey by McKinsey of over 100 large organisations across multiple sectors, those who regularly collaborated outperformed and demonstrated higher growth, lower costs and greater profitability than those in the industry that didn’t collaborate.
One thing is certain – it’s a joint effort. Both parties need to play their role in the supply chain, and once collaboration is truly embraced great successes can be achieved by both.