Crunch Time

Control vs. Support in the Manufacturer-Retailer Relationship

March 4, 2013

Let me focus on manufacturers for this post, because I deeply feel that these industry leaders need to enact change in their relationships with retailers. Up until now, brands command the table when it comes to getting their products disbursed to retail channels, but then they back off and let the retailer do their thing without much help or support.

On a large scale, this model may seem to work just fine; products are still selling, right? But, then why is our industry unraveling at the seams? While it's not easy or fun to admit, it's in large part due to the unsupportive role manufacturers have taken in their retailer partnerships.

Dan and I called this blog "Crunch Time" because we've recognized that it's time for the home décor industry to change, whether it's ready or not. It's time for brands to change their style. It's time to go from their ‘Command & Control' model to one that has more of an ‘Enable & Facilitate' practice when it comes to their retail partners.

An ‘Enable & Facilitate' relationship between manufacturer and retailer requires more than just a change in model (see my article about the Integrated Model in Retailer Now), it's a change in attitude. That attitude change is a transition from asking, "how many units is my dealer buying?" to "how can I help my dealer get more exposure with my brand?"

To start, manufacturers need to get their hands a little dirty with the actual retailing process, because retailing has drastically changed over the past several years as consumers have turned to online platforms as they start their buying process. Manufacturers have to get their products online, one way or another. Doing so will enable their brick-and-mortar partners to compete effectively with online retailing.

Next, manufacturers should work to facilitate their retailers' success in competition and integration with online commerce through strict monitoring of the sanctioned and unsanctioned sales of the brand's products.

It's no longer enough, no longer effective for manufacturers to limit their supervision and support to the backend of home décor product sales. Simply commanding the design and manufacturing of the products themselves, then controlling the process to getting them out on the market is no longer sufficient. If manufacturers continue to stop at such an early threshold, we will continue to see the faltering and failing of the retail ecosystem. And that damaging prospect is something that will directly affect the manufacturers' ability to get ahead and succeed in our changing marketplace.