Vendor Relations: Partnership or Accommodation?

Today’s Retail Wire panel discussion touches on the need for vendors to be less accommodating to their large retail partners. As usual, I don’t think this is a black-and-white issue:

The nature of collaboration between vendors and retailers is too nuanced to determine a “right or wrong” answer to this question. A lot depends on the balance of power in the relationship: Is it a small vendor dealing with Walmart or a giant food chain, or P&G? It also depends on the strength of the retailer’s internal team: Can the merchants benefit from the expertise and point of view provided by a strong vendor?

Any good negotiator recognizes the difference between true collaboration and “just say yes.” Constantly giving in to a retailer’s every demand is not the same as building a long-term partnership. Collaborative planning and good execution require mutual agreement on goals, and creative solutions to those issues that may seem at first glance to be contradictory. For vendors, this is not the same thing as constant accommodation.

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