How vital is providing quality product/being a sustainable supplier?
Mike Mauti: Those are all points that suppliers need to have in the back of their mind when they sell product to their customers. This is true for any business - your customers are relying on you to help them improve their business. Produce suppliers need to understand that if they're not providing high quality product to their customers, they're not going to be helping their customers grow sales and they might not be a supplier for very long. You can say the same thing about all the recommendations I am providing to suppliers. But you could flip that around and say this is also what a retailer needs to do in order to drive sales. A produce shopper generally only buys high-quality products. There's the odd time where an uninformed consumer will go into a store and not recognize that they're buying poor-quality product or accidentally put poor quality product in their cart. But this is not a strong strategy for a retailer to hang their hat on.
I also talked about providing a sustainable source of supply. Some customers will go shopping with a list of what they want to buy that day. Now, of course, a lot of customers will deviate from that list. And if they see something that really catches their eye, they'll add it into their cart, but a lot of customers will start with a list, either in their head or on paper. If you've got a product that is inconsistently available, it might not ever get onto that list.
The same is true about costs. Suppliers need to give the retailer product costs that are in line with the market. But by the same token, the retailer needs to offer retail prices that are in line with their local marketplace. Customers don't necessarily know the price of every single item. But many know when their basket is higher than it should be. If they expect to spend $100 in a grocery store, and then suddenly they spend $125 for what appears to be a similar type of assortment, they will quickly understand, and many will switch grocery stores.
Retailers also need to be competitive in the market with advertising and offering products throughout the season. One of the things I always tried to do as a buyer was to advertise products when I knew none of my competitors would. For example, I often advertised watermelon at Thanksgiving. It’s not something that many people did back then. The volume is lower than during the key summer months, but still high for that time period. Suppliers can improve their standing with retailers and retailers with their customers if they offered seasonal favorites at times when their competitors are not thinking about it.
Read the full interview here: Retail 101: Part One with Mike Mauti