Vendor Management – The RFP Process

Vendor Management – The RFP Process

We select our store locations. We select our staff. We select the merchandise to carry; and along those lines, we select our vendors. Selecting the correct vendors – in addition to managing these vendors during the selection process and beyond – can often be the difference between making your store profitable or simply providing real estate for the vendors to sell their goods. It is time to manage your vendors!

So… raise your hand if you have ever conducted a thorough Request For Proposal (RFP) process for you vendors. Anyone? In truth, not many have to the extent that you evaluate multiple vendors, creating competition for space in your store. How you manage the RFP process can and will set the tone for all your go-forward vendors. A well-thought out process to vendor selection, can provide real opportunities for you in the following areas:

Rebates: Did you know that vendors offer rebates based on product placement; rack allowances; product movement and other considerations? In some cases, the vendor receives manufacturing rebates that you need to ensure are passed onto you. The RFP Process ensures you identify and capture your fair share.

Incentives: The vendor is in your store for one thing – to sell their product. Meeting the goals of the vendors should only be achieved if they are aligned with your goals. What types of incentives do you vendors provide you in order to meet that goal? Work with the vendor to establish incentives for each party that foster alignment.

Deliveries: You pay for delivery whether you believe that or not. Manage the amount of deliveries to your store on a weekly basis so that you have enough inventory on hand, but not so much that you are paying full-load delivery fees for partial deliveries. You may want to consider adjustments based on seasonality.

Never Out of Basics: All stores carry that “MUST HAVE” product that you can never be out of – ever! Identify your “must have” products and ensure that you and your vendor have a clear understanding on the ramifications if any of these products are ever out of stock. Build in financial penalties for the vendor if you are shorted product on your core offerings.

Marketing: Identify programs and investments that your vendor partner will make in advertising and promoting their products. These should be managed in concert with your overall marketing of your store and determined jointly with the vendor to ensure their financial obligation, as well as timing.

Payment Terms: Standard policy is net 30 days, but have you inquired about discounts if you pay earlier? In some cases, the squeaky wheel gets the oil and if you are in a position to negotiate more favorable payment terms, do so.

Product Returns: Have you established a specific contractual obligation on product or damaged returns? Re-slotting fees and other incremental mark-ups by your vendor with regard to returned products could eat away at your gross profit. In addition, now is the time to establish the process for replacing damaged products.

Contract Terms: How long are you committed to this vendor and what are the “out clauses” in the contract should a better vendor come along? The best place to negotiate this is during the RFP process when the vendor is hungry for your business.

Mark-Ups: Every product you purchase comes with a corresponding markup – or the manufacturer/vendor profit. Most of these markups are determined by a category of products as opposed by the product SKU. Knowing your industry markup ranges by category will better prepare you in establishing the best cost structure for your product acquisition.

Conducting a thorough RFP process is critical for establishing not only your pricing structure with your vendors but also in developing the process in which business is conducted. Remember, vendors are in YOUR store and it is up to you to determine the roles that each of them play. If you do not take control of your vendors from the onset, you will face an uphill battle within your own store. Or as Winston Churchill once said, “he who fails to plan is planning to fail.”

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John Matthews

John Matthews is the president and CEO of Gray Cat Enterprises and is responsible for the management of all consulting activities for the firm, which include retail consulting for multiunit operations; interim divisional or general management leadership; consumer marketing for companies launching products in the retail sector; and strategic project management. With more than 30 years of senior-level experience and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written Game-Changing Strategies for Retailers, which is available on Amazon. In addition, he has two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing for Retailers and How to Stage a Killer Grand Opening!, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.

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