Recent advances in technology have revolutionised the way we communicate. Sophisticated tools, such as email, SMS, conference calls, video conferences, social networking, webinars and webcasts, have become almost indispensable. But, while it is hard to imagine life without these modern means of connecting, most of us recognise the immense, irreplaceable value of maintaining personal contact throughout the supply chain.
The pace of change in FMCG is breathtaking: new product launches, packaging, promotions, advertising campaigns, relaunches and point-of-sale are all best communicated face to face. So I was particularly surprised when I noticed while I was studying our top 20 suppliers that 16 – yes, 16 – out of these 20 have recently implemented major changes, resulting in good, solid people leaving
The scale of these changes across our top supplier base over the past six months is both concerning and alarming – and, I fear, worse than anything I have witnessed in almost 30 years at Landmark Wholesale. When you consider the time and cost involved in recruiting and training staff to understand our sector, these actions waste huge amounts of money, and deprive us of the expertise and advice we need to deliver the results we are all striving to achieve.
Despite the challenges of the market and the economy, our buying group continues to grow and increase market share as a direct result of our investments back into our business. Our members are showing their commitment to the sector by investing in new depots, and improving and extending current depots, as well as through new and improved customer services, promotions, and staff recruitment and training. We are also very proud of the investment we make in our award-winning Lifestyle Express retail development programme and the increased market share it brings.
I understand that trying to cut costs is a natural reaction in tough trading times but I would argue that this is short-sighted – the loss of highly valued and experienced account directors and controllers is almost irreversible and can only have long-term detrimental effects on our sector. And are these cuts affecting just the wholesale teams or are the multiples also suffering the consequences of losing similarly highly trained staff? I suspect not.
The wholesale sector remains vibrant and is capable of more great growth but it has to be done in collaboration with suppliers – we need quality people supporting our business and we need continuity to maximise the return on suppliers’ investment.
Modern methods of communicating make our lives easier, saving us time and expense along the way. But our sector remains relationship-driven – people make a business and there is simply no substitute for face-to-face interaction and the establishment of long-lasting personal relationships.