GSM In Action
Ideal retailer focuses on consumers, quality
This spring I celebrate 10 years since leaving the retail side
of the produce business.
I was happy to leave the grind of retail and embark on a career
supporting the rest of the supply chain.
While I now work mostly with seed companies and grower-shippers, I
still make most decisions based on the knowledge I gained while
working at retail.
I often contemplate what I would do differently if I went
Flavor has a much deeper meaning to me today than a decade ago
having learned that flavor starts with the plant variety. Be it
fruit or vegetable, the genetics of the product really matter. Most
products grown today exist because they deliver well for the
I have discovered a handful of grower-shippers who think more
about the consumer and have an obsession with flavor.
They work tirelessly to select the right varieties based on taste
and build handling practices to assure these gems wow the
If I were a buyer today my dream partnership would be working
closely with a supplier, selecting varieties and defining handling
practices that would deliver an exceptional flavor to the
I have also learned a great deal by calling on nearly every major
retailer in the country over the last 10 years.
The best of the buyers I encounter all share similar
characteristics. They are tightly focused on the consumer and only
pledge loyalty to those suppliers who deliver for the
They listen intently during the sales pitch, ask great questions,
and are mostly focused on the product experience. They know their
products well and are always on the lookout for new levels of
The price discussion only occurs when they are satisfied that you
can meet their needs.
If I were a buyer today I would do a better job of listening,
asking questions and better articulating my vision and willingness
to procure great product. I would definitely be more open to
visiting with potential suppliers while seeking out products that
consumers will love.
While at retail, I was committed to category management in our top
categories. I sat through countless meetings reviewing category
results and mapping plans going forward.
To be quite honest, I learned that the best practices for one
category were often good for another category.
Now that I have been on this side, I would use data differently. I
would spend less time working on full-blown category management and
more time mining the data for trends and gaps in our
How many new sales and margin dollars could I create by being the
best at spotting trends?
I have also learned that trend adoption is limited more by the
buyer's view of the category than consumer demand. Data matters,
and I would use it differently.
In addition to great product, I have learned that the real winners
in this industry are those who can deliver at store level.
They invest heavily in training on not only the basics of stocking
and rotating, but also on the consumer side of produce.
Their store teams know how to engage consumers, help them select
products and discuss preparation methods.
As I have worked with grower-shippers to launch new and
differentiated items, the most significant decision we often make
is which retailer we should ask to launch our products.
If I were to go back to retail, I would invest significantly more
of my time and company resources in improving execution at retail
by establishing a culture of consumer engagement at store
I firmly believe the best retailers end up with the best in class
suppliers. My role as the produce leader would be to create an
environment where suppliers pursue us with their best
In all reality, I am having too much fun in working with the
supply chain to go back to retail, though I know I could improve if
I did return.
Don Goodwin is the owner of Golden Sun Marketing. His company
specializes in strategy and marketing for the fresh produce supply
chain. Visit www.goldensunmarketing.com for more information.
Originally published in The Packer. Link to full