There's a popular opinion in the FMCG sector that food and drink products are generally the'fastest' and most demanding category of product to deal with. Professionals coming from outside the sector are sometimes dismissed for roles on the ground that they wouldn't be able to adapt to the pace of the sector.
This sense of urgency and precariousness is something professionals are sometimes encouraged to thrive on. These principles often carry over to a business' approach to recruitment - for most of my assignments, professionals are required ASAP, and hiring managers will stress the importance of the vacancy, whether it be a replacement or a newly created role.
Despite this, it's extremely common to encounter delays in the recruitment process. Managers are frustrated when ideal candidates aren't presented immediately. Candidates are frustrated when they're made to wait for weeks between interview stages, only to be asked the same set of questions by a different manager. For everyone caught up in these delays, recruitment can seem like the slowest part of FMCG. The hiring process can feel like a chore, where one party is always chasing after another for updates or progress reports.
It's important for all parties to recognise that some delays are unavoidable, but equally, it's critical that recruiters should take responsibility for offering solutions, and seek ways to improve the recruitment experience, whilst mitigating against delays.
There are deep-rooted flaws to all the recruitment solutions presently available to SMEs in the food and drink industry. At Spirit, we've spent the last year engineering a complete solution to address all these flaws, based on proper consultancy, superior candidate choice, more efficient service delivery, and a reduced overall cost. We're currently running trial projects with a handful of clients, and will be expanding the model to other customers in the New Year.
Over the past few years in the food retailing world we have seen new CEOs, arguable under performance from the Top 4, discounter retailers winning market share, and much more. Something that hasn't changed though is the challenge to suppliers working in partnership with such powerful, demanding businesses. Whilst suppliers never expect an easy ride, there appears to be no indication from the sales professionals I speak to, that it will get any less challenging in the near future.
I've been asking people in my network for their perspective on the challenges they have faced with their retail partners. Below are some of their comments:
"Morrisons have been through a lot of change; new CEO, the sale of M Local, and many redirections in strategy. The changes were throughout the business, and didn't stop with us. We had to significantly review our margins and process, so we have reciprocated to some extent with our suppliers".
2. Tesco, Sainsburys & Asda
"Guiding our business through the range resets in Tesco & Sainsburys was certainly one of the most challenging periods of my career to date. Their category was to increase Private Label and reduce Brand - setting us up for some tense, lengthy negotiations. One of the hardest elements of working with them is having enough time to build a strong relationship with a Buyer before they switch department, which seems to happen more often than we would like" (where Asda is concerned, there has been less changes - from what I have heard from my contacts).
3. Aldi & Lidl
"Both have performed well and are becoming significantly stronger in a crowded market. It's not a surprise that they have become more demanding. Their business strategy gives them the opportunity to shop around, so when it comes to supplier rationalisation, they can push harder and demand more because of the choice available to them".
Look out for a video blog coming soon, where we discuss the relationship between suppliers and retailers in more detail.