Over the past couple of decades, retailers have reported decreasing levels of service across several of their supply chain partners, as those manufacturers became focused just on their business and not on the rest of the supply chain.

The worst experience happens in the newspaper and magazine supply chain, with retailers having little control over supply, poor service levels, decreased gross profit margin and huge cost of supply. Add to this the changes in product quality and decline in sales, and it’s no wonder that the majority of independent retailers no longer have or see the category as the centre of their business.

So what type of behaviours from the supply side of the convenience store channel builds retailer trust?

The simple answer is activities that show the business is valued, then build profitability on a continuing basis.

Honesty is a big part of building trust. When a company through its representative tells a retailer that they are going to do something, they need to deliver or explain why they are doing it. Successful partnerships are built on clearly defined expectations of what both the supplier and the retailer will need to do to deliver in the long term.

Samantha Coldbeck of Wharfedale Premier in Hull, which was the Independent Achievers Academy’s (IAA) Overall Best Shop 2015, says: “I have always had an open and honest approach to company representatives, I have learnt that they have valuable knowledge that can help me improve my business. When I say that I will do something such as comply with loyalty schemes, I deliver.

“The majority of reps that I see treat us honestly and there are benefits for both the company and my business. I have a simple solution when I am treated less than honestly – I end the relationship!”

Engagement needs to show interest in the store that is broader than just pushing a single manufacturer’s range. A cross-category approach that helps increase the store’s total category sales and profit builds more trust than the ‘our range should have the best space’ approach. Free stock and loyalty schemes have their place, but if they don’t have flexibility built into them to take a retailer’s local knowledge into account both parties will become frustrated.

“My best rep engagement is when they, with the backing of the company they work for, want to help me develop my business and sell more of their products,” says West Sussex retailer Amish Shingadia of Londis Caterways, IAA Overall Best Shop 2016. “A modern convenience store like mine needs to constantly keep pace with new product opportunities.

“The best reps help us offer more than just a generic sell-in message. Their full engagement provides me with the framework to maximise sales of the product and category. With full engagement we all benefit.”

Respect leads to trust. It may seem a small matter, but is often not considered by a manufacturer’s field force. An independent convenience store owner is the CEO of their own business. As such, making appointments to visit sets the relationship on a very different level. Defining the purpose of the call will also assist the store owner to decide if they need to meet the rep or it can be delegated to a member of the store team.

Mo Razzaq of Family Shopper Blantyre, IAA Overall Best Shop 2018, says: “I am most fortunate to have many very positive supplier relationships. They are a key foundation of the success I have been able to achieve across 30 years of neighbourhood retailing. “I know that the first step in building a respectful relationship with my suppliers and their representatives is down to me. Firstly, I must be seen as a reliable partner who delivers on my