Angela Mount: supermarket buyers can be forced to renege on supplier deals in hard times

Former Somerfield head wine buyer Angela Mount has said buyers can be forced into going back on supplier deals and bringing money forward when supermarkets face difficult financial situations.

Mount, who was head wine buyer at the now defunct retailer when it issued a profits warning, added it’s too easy for “beleaguered suppliers to blame retailers and individual buyers” when the going gets tough.

Angela Mount

Angela Mount

She said buyers come under “enormous pressure” when the retailers they work for run into financial difficulties and are forced to redo forecasts and push suppliers for extra funding above and beyond existing deals.

Mount, who led buying at Somerfield for 12 years, said her integrity as a buyer was compromised by being forced to ask for additional funds or revamp the range to only include those with the most lucrative promotional strategies and marketing money available.

In an opinion piece on today’s Harpers.co.uk, Mount said: “Buyers have their fingers burnt down to the bone tapping on their calculators. You’re just glued to your desk redoing forecasts, over and over again, working out how you’re going to claw the deficit back. If the numbers are short, the message that comes from above is, ‘we need to bring in more’.

She added: “The pressure on buyers is enormous at any company facing a difficult year-end, and each buyer is tasked with bringing in a certain extra amount each week. It was one of the many factors that finally made me decide to leave Somerfield. The message was ‘get the brands listed who are going to pay us money’.

”The window to recoup the sales/revenue to hit budget was too short to implement even radical promotional strategies, and the pressure was on to recruit marketing monies. I felt my integrity as a buyer was being compromised. You had to say, ‘I know we did that deal but I now need another £15,000 from you’.”

She said that during her time at Somerfield, when the business was facing difficulties, she got daily updates with a fixed amount to bring in every day, and was asked to “bring money forward from the next financial year”. She told Harpers.co.uk she was told: “If you have to delist and bring in products that you will get more cash on, then do it.”

To read more of Mount’s comments click here (you must be a subscriber).

Mount agreed to share her experiences as a supermarket wine buyer as part of a new Harpers investigation to better understand relationships between supermarkets, their buyers and their suppliers.

You can also find out more in our Special Report: Multiples and Suppliers relations uncovered (you must be a subscriber). 

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